Scott Russell isn’t officially entered in the Vance & Hines XR1200 race at Daytona and he’s never sat on the bike, but that’s of little concern to the team that’s been tasked with prepping the machinery for the five-time Daytona winner.James Gang/Hoban Brothers Racing presented by H-D of Appleton and Spectro Oils continues their duties of prepping the Vance & Hines XR1200 media/VIP bike. In a program that was launched with the introduction of the class last year, a different member of the media or a VIP had a chance to taste the XR experience, often with excellent results. Ulsterman Jeremy McWilliams won the season finale at Barber Motorsports Park, while Shawn Higbee finished second at Mid-Ohio. Journalist Steve Atlas finished fourth at New Jersey Motorsports Park, but was elevated to second when race winner Jake Holden and third placed Kyle Wyman were disqualified for technical infractions.”If you look at that bike, if you look at the H.O.G. VIP bike, between Jeremy [McWilliams] and Shawn (Higbee), that was a first and a second, and then [Steve] Atlas finished second because of the disqualification,” James Gang/Hoban Brothers Racing team owner and rider Paul James said in a phone call from Daytona. “So if you look at the track record for the bike that we prepared and worked on with different guys on it, we had three podium finishes out of five races.”Cycle World’s Mark Cernicky crashed out of fifth place at Virginia International Raceway and Motorcyclist’s Aaron Frank finished eighth in the series premiere at Road America.
“In any case, I guess it’s proven we know how to prepare a bike, and with a good rider give him a chance of a podium,” James said. “Of course, it’s also reflective of the spec rules that keep the racing close and highlight the skills of the rider.”James Gang/Hoban Bros. team general manager John Dahmer will serve as Russell’s crew chief while Mike Kirkpatrick will crew for James.”It’s Scott’s [Russell] first time riding this bike and with limited track time we want to make sure the bike is as good as it can be for him,” James said. “And luckily we’ve got some knowledge. We haven’t run at Daytona, we didn’t run the tire test either. But we’ve got five races under our belt and some knowledge. So pretty hopeful that we’ll get him going the way he wants to go.”James will meet Russell on Wednesday to begin the process of making the former AMA and World Superbike Champion comfortable on the XR1200, how he likes his suspension and ergonomics.”We’d like to have that conversation Wednesday when we get to the garage so we can actually get the correct sag, at least, and have a talk to him about what he likes,” James said. “So we’ll at least have a guess when he gets to the track for the first time on Thursday afternoon.”The first XR1200 practice is at 1:40 p.m., with qualifying following from 5:30 to 6 p.m.Russell also needs to be officially entered on Wednesday. The Georgian has his AMA Pro Racing license, but the official entry hasn’t been submitted and he’s not on the entry list for the race.”We just need his signature on some stuff,” James said.In addition to his return to racing at Daytona for the first time since 2008, Russell will be providing color commentary for a full slate of races on Speed.Along with getting Russell’s machinery race ready, James will be one of the 19 riders to measure themselves against “Mr. Daytona” in Friday afternoon’s seven-lap race on the twin banking, 3.51-mile long course. James finished 16th in last year’s Daytona 200 aboard the James Gang/Hoban Bros. Buell 1125R, but that was before the banking was repaved during the summer and fall, “so I haven’t been on the new pavement, but I’m very much looking forward to that,” James said.As to which other VIPs might race the H.O.G. Racing media/VIP XR1200 later in the season, James said, “Nothing confirmed yet. We’re still working on that right now.”For more information on James Gang/Hoban Brothers Racing, go to: www.jghbracing.com or follow team updates at: www.twitter.com/jamesgangracing