Aquino’s Race, Eslick’s Title

Henny Ray Abrams | September 3, 2011


RMR Geico’s Danny Eslick and Yamaha Extended Service/Pat Clark Sports’ Tommy Aquino shared the spotlight in Saturday’s Daytona SportBike final, with Aquino winning his first DSB final and Eslick winning his second DSB title, then dedicating it to the late Gary Nixon, whose replica helmet Eslick wore.The weekend had begun with the numbers clearly in Eslick’s favor. The Oklahoman was holding a 45 point lead on Monster Energy Graves Yamaha’s Josh Herrin, which meant he had two races to finish the job he’d started back in May at Infineon Raceway after failing to score points at Daytona with tire problems. “The past two champions come out of Daytona with either zero or negative points, so let’s make that three in a row now,” Eslick told his team after sliding to a stop at Daytona. With a 45-point lead, It also meant he only had to keep Herrin in sight-he didn’t have to beat him-and he was able to do it, though not easily.The race was an exciting six-rider battle from start almost to finish. Almost, because M4 Suzuki’s Dane Westby was leading the last lap when he crashed trying to go around a slower rider in in turn two. That reduced the field to five, which also reduced the points difference among the leaders.

“I really didn’t know who was behind me,” Aquino said. “I was just focused on Dane (Westby) at first. When I was in the lead, I said, ‘Just focus, get a clean lap. Finish the lap, You’re a professional. How hard can that be?’ Very hard, if you’re wondering.”Eslick didn’t need a lot of points, depending on where Herrin finished, and when the checkered flag fell Eslick was the champion on the same track where he’d won the inaugural DSB title aboard a Buell in 2009. The day ended with Eslick holding an insurmountable 34 point lead, 259 to 225 over Herrin.Neither had had exceptional years. Eslick began his recovery at Infineon, but didn’t win his first race until the Barber Motorsports second race. Then came wins on the second day at Mid-Ohio and in the previous round at Laguna Seca. Herrin went on a streak mid-season, winning both races at Road America after having won at Miller Motorsports Park. He also won the second race at Barber. But mixed in were three DNF’s, which would prove his undoing.Herrin announced on the podium that he was moving to the Superbike class in 2012.Being in a hole didn’t prevent Herrin from trying to keep his championship hopes alive. He led the most laps and was in the mix right to end, finishing second to Aquino by .113 sec. Aquino had led and was a close second when Westby Holden Racing Yamaha’s Cameron Beaubier was third by .030 sec. Then a gap of .769 sec. to Vesrah Suzuki’s Cory West, with his teammate Taylor Knapp fifth. Eslick was alone in sixth.Daytona SportBike:1. Tommy Aquino (Yamaha)

2. Josh Herrin (Yamaha)

3. Cameron Beaubier (Yamaha)

4. Cory West (Suzuki)

5. Taylor Knapp (Suzuki)

6. Danny Eslick (Suzuki)

7. Jason DiSalvo (Triumph)

8. PJ Jacobsen (Ducati)

9. Tyler OHara (Yamaha)

10. Santiago Villa (Suzuki)


Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor

Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.