DAYTONA BEACH, FL, MAR 16 - GEICO Suzuki's Martin Cardenas began his return to the Daytona SportBike class by taking the pole position, and the Rolex Daytona Chronograph, for Saturday's Daytona 200 at Daytona International Speedway.
Team Latus Motors Racing's Jason DiSalvo had dominated practice and qualifying leading up to the pole run, though not by much. Cardenas was within .003 of a second of DiSalvo in Friday morning qualifying, which DiSalvo said was a concern.
In the final 20-minute session, DiSalvo went to the top on his first flyer, but wasn't there for long. Y.E.S Graves Yamaha's Cameron Beaubier with Cardenas soon slotting into second. DiSalvo slowed after his fast lap.
Cardenas turned in his best lap of 1:49.560 just past the halfway mark, dropping Beaubier to second and DiSalvo to third. Beaubier improved his time to close the gap, but couldn't dislodge Cardenas. The Colombian, who raced in the Superbike class last year, had his first pole of the Daytona SportBike season, earning an extra point, plus a very nice watch.
"I was very close to winning that watch in 2010," said Cardenas about his second career AMA Pro pole. "Danny [Eslick] beat me by a small amount of time. This time I wanted to give 100 percent to try to get it. I've got the pole and I'm very happy for it."
DiSalvo left the pits for his final run with just under four minutes to run. He'd have one out lap and one flyer to try to steal the pole. But he couldn't. DiSalvo passed Vesrah Suzuki's Cory West in the International Horseshoe on his hot lap, then set out on his own. Pushing air all the way around the banking did him no favors and he wasn't able to better his lap time.
Not long after DiSalvo clocked his final lap, he was dropped to fourth by Joey Pascarella, whose final lap was his fastest.
Daytona SportBike Qualifying:
1. Martin Cardenas (Suzuki) 1:49.560
2. Cameron Beaubier (Yamaha) 1:49.742
3. Joey Pascarella (Yamaha) 1:50.155
4. Jason DiSalvo (Triumph) 1:50.267
5. Dane Westby (Suzuki) 1:51.182
6. Jake Zemke (Ducati) 1:51.206
7. Huntley Nash (Yamaha) 1:51.489
8. Cory West (Suzuki) 1:51.514
9. Benny Solis (Suzuki) 1:51.557
10. Barrett Long (Ducati) 1:51.639