DAYTONA BEACH, FL, MAR. 14 - Death, taxes and Josh Hayes leading the Superbike field from the very first time wheels are turned in anger. Those apparently are the three things you can count on as Hayes did what he does best once again in the opening practice AMA Superbike session of the new year at Daytona International Speedway. He led. The entire time.
Hayes ended up clocking a best of 1:38.957 on a chilly morning in Florida – 1.76 seconds faster than Danny Eslick, the Oklahoman making his debut on the Michael Jordan Suzuki GSX-R1000. Eslick’s best after 14 laps of the Speedway was a 1:40.746.
“It was a bit like last year – some decent grip in some areas of the racetrack but it was kind of spotty,” Hayes said of the first session of the year. “There was a bit of a crosswind and very cold. The banking is where some instability issues were – more than the infield, quite honestly. It was what I expected. I stuck to my game plan which was to stay out there and do a lot of laps. I can learn a lot more about the racetrack than I can in the pits changing anything. I didn’t make a single change on the bike. I just rode around with the base settings that we had from before. This afternoon if the weather and everything goes our way, then we’ll see about making some gains for Friday’s and Saturday’s race.”
Hayes and his Monster Energy/Graves Yamaha R1 earned pole position for last year’s two Superbike races with a qualifying lap of 1:37.463.
Eslick was happy after his first session – and thankful for the chance to ride for the Jordan squad.
“It’s a good way to start off the season,” Eslick said. “Josh [Hayes] has obviously won a couple of championships and is really kicking everybody’s butt. To come out swinging and be right behind him – we’re in the ballpark. Daytona’s one of those places you just want to get through and we’ll get to the real racing at some other tracks along the way. I just want to say thanks to the whole Michael Jordan Motorsports group for believing in me and giving me a chance. And National Guard and everybody else who is on board with them. It’s an awesome team and crew and just a really good program to be involved with. I think the Suzuki is really fast on the banking and I don’t feel all that fast yet through the infield, but that’s a good sign. If you don’t feel that fast generally you are. It’s when you feel like you’re going fast and you look up and you're in 12th place… for me it feels really comfortable to ride. It feels good to be back home and back on a championship-winning bike. I did all those times by myself and with no drafting. I like doing it that way.”
Third fastest today was Martin Cardenas, another making his debut with a new team. The Colombian was just .011 of a second slower than Eslick on his Yoshimura Suzuki.
Eslick’s Jordan Suzuki teammate Roger Lee Hayden rode the National Guard-backed GSX-R1000 to the fourth fastest time .432 of a second behind Cardenas and .2 of a second clear of Larry Pegram, the veteran completing his first practice on his Foremost Insurance-backed Yamaha R1.
Hayes’ Yamaha teammate Josh Herrin was sixth – 2.5 seconds behind Hayes. Yoshimura Suzuki’s Chris Clark was seventh, ahead of the EBR of Geoff May.
David Anthony was ninth on the Motosport.com-backed Suzuki with Chris Urlich rounding out the top 10 on the GEICO Honda CBR1000RR.
1. Josh Hayes (Yamaha) 1:38.957
2. Danny Eslick (Suzuki) 1:40.746
3. Martin Cardenas (Suzuki) 1:40.757
4. Roger Lee Hayden (Suzuki) 1:41.189
5. Larry Pegram (Yamaha) 1:41.424
6. Josh Herrin (Yamaha) 1:41.470
7. Chris Clark (Suzuki) 1:42.098
8. Geoff May (EBR) 1:42.242
9. David Anthony (Suzuki) 1:42.993
10. Chris Ulrich (Honda) 1:43.366