Photography By: Andrea Wilson
Daytona Sportbike championship runner-up Dane Westby earned a promotion to the GEICO-backed team that won the 2012 title with Martin Cardenas, it was announced today, with Westby to pilot Honda CBR600RRs instead of the Suzukis the team ran last year..
The Oklahoman won one race and racked up nine podiums in 2012 on an M4 Suzuki in a pay-to-ride deal last year for Team Hammer, the team which will provide logistical and technical support for the GEICO Hondas. Asked whether this was American Honda's entry back into the AMA Championship, a spokesman insisted that American Honda was not taking part in the championship and wouldn't address the issue of providing bikes and parts to series participants.
American Honda's Ray Blank withdrew the company's support from AMA road racing following the 2009 season as a way of protesting the stewardship of the Daytona Motorsports Group, then run by Roger Edmondson. Edmondson left at the end of 2009 - allegedly for health reasons, though many believe he was eased out with a golden parachute - and replaced by David Atlas, the current DMG CEO. Blank resigned from American Honda effective October 1 and was replaced by Bob Gurga. There was much hope within AMA Pro Racing that Gurga would be amenable to returning to the championship. Sources with knowledge of the deal believe that American Honda is supplying motorcycles and some parts, but no financial support. The American Honda spokesman would not confirm this.
Honda's re-entry this year on the updated CBR600RR makes some sense as a prelude to 2014 when it's expected they'll have a new 1000cc flagship Superbike.
The Chris Ulrich-run GEICO team's move to Honda has been rumored for some time. American Suzuki filed chapter 11 bankruptcy in November, shutting down their car business to focus on the long-term growth of its Motorcycles/ATV and Marine divisions, a move many believe will strengthen their position in the motorcycle division. But any money Suzuki has for racing will be shared with Yoshimura R&D, which runs their racing operations.They're expected to announce the signing of Cardenas to ride their Superbike imminently.
Among those lost in the shuffle is Elena Myers. The very popular young rider tweeted on New Year's Day, "I am now officially a free agent for the 2013 racing season." The names of Myers' sponsors changed during the 2012 season, beginning with SuzukiScoopFans on Facebook and Suzuki, and ending with Suzuki. Ironically, Myers' boyfriend, Kyle Wyman, may have benefitted from her departure. It's believed he could be riding for Myers' former team, but on Hondas.