Photography By: Henny Ray Abrams
DAYTONA BEACH, FL, MARCH 16 - Team Latus Motors Racing's Jason DiSalvo doesn't remember ever being on the pole position at Daytona International Speedway; he hopes that changes today.
Riding the number 9 blue and white Gary Nixon tribute Triumph 675, last year's Daytona 200 winner sped to the fastest qualifying time ahead of pole qualifying later this afternoon. His lap time of 1:49.772 mins. was fastest by only .003 secs., which made him less confident about winning the Rolex Daytona Chronograph which he nearly won last year.
"I definitely want to go out and go faster in the afternoon, because I've lost this pole position for the 200 by about as much as I'm leading by right now, so I don't want to take any chances," he said after edging Geico Suzuki's Martin Cardenas for the provisional pole. "I want to be as far away from those guys as I can coming into the end of that next session."
DiSalvo is an avid watch collector, but he said he hadn't worn one in a long time because he'of being "a little bitter that I don't have one of these yet. I want to get that thing." Even if he does get it, he can't keep it. DiSalvo told the story of how on his first visit to the Speedway as a five-year-old, his father, Jim, predicted that he'd be on the pole position some day. Then he promised his father that he'd give him the watch. "I'm thinking, ‘Yeah of course, yeah, it's a watch, just like my Mickey Mouse watch, right?" he said. "I had no idea. So that's a cool story that we've always shared together. For sure the first one goes to him."
DiSalvo came close last year. He was the provisional pole sitter until Jake Zemke ripped off a flyer that gave him the pole, and the watch, by .305 sec.
In today's sunny and warm 50-minute morning session, DiSalvo worked on race pace, rather than chasing a lap time. The team sorted through electronics issues and monitored fuel. "We ended up putting down that lap time, but we weren't even really going out in that session with the plan to attack and try to put a really good time, which I'm really happy about, because that says to me that we've got a good race package as well as a fast motorcycle," he said.
Earning the pole would be mean more than just winning the Rolex. He said "to put Gary's bike, his tribute bike, in the number one place for the Daytona 200 would be really special." Nixon, who passed away last summer, won the Daytona 200 on a Triumph in 1967, 45 years ago.
THe Latus Motors Racing Triumph 675 appears to be the right tool for the job. The 675 is much different from the Ducati 848 that he rode in last year's 200.
"It's almost like an apples and oranges scenario," he said. The biggest difference is top speed. "This bike just never stops pulling on the straightaways. It's got incredibly long legs on the banking. I think part of that is due to the fact that it's so narrow. And other than that, the handling in the infield is just incredible, and I don't think we've really tapped into the full capabilities of what the suspension is going to have to offer throughout the season, so I'm really optimistic about moving on, even going forward from this track, getting into some of the tighter, twistier tracks and seeing how well we can make this bike perform."
Daytona SportBike Qualifying:
1. Jason DiSalvo (Triumph) 1:49.772
2. Martin Cardenas (Suzuki) 1:49.775
3. Cameron Beaubier (Yamaha) 1:50.217
4. Joey Pascarella (Yamaha) 1:50.732
5. Jake Zemke (Ducati) 1:50.867
6. Jake Gagne (Yamaha) 1:50.895
7. Dane Westby (Suzuki) 1:51.031
8. Tommy Aquino (Yamaha) 1:51.061
9. JD Beach (Yamaha) 1:51.280
10. Tommy Hayden (Yamaha) 1:51.609