Martin Cardenas will be the lone rider on a Geico-backed Suzuki GSX-R600 in the 2012 AMA Pro Daytona Sportbike class with the sponsor severing its ties with defending series champion Danny Eslick.Cardenas, who finished fourth in the AMA Superbike Championship last year in his rookie season, will go back to the class where he earned the title in 2010. He will do so for a team called Chris Ulrich Racing with the team signing a multi-year contract with Geico, according to a release issued today by Geico. Chris Ulrich will continue to race in the AMA Superbike Series, but not with Geico sponsorship.
Geico sponsored Eslick's Richie Morris-owned team for the past three years with Morris also running Vance & Hines XR1200 Series Champion Chris Fillmore on a Geico-backed XR1200. Reached today by phone, Morris says he will continue to run a Harley-Davidson program in the XR1200 class with Rossemeyer Harley-Davidson - a program that will include a rental option that will allow riders to show up with race-ready XRs awaiting them. He also says he will likely have a Daytona SportBike program for 2012.
"As far as that whole deal goes, all I really want to do is thank Geico for three great years and wish Martin [Cardenas] good luck," Morris said. "As a rider, he's a class act and I wish him the best."Team Hammer, which is owned by Ulrich's father John, will provide technical and logistical support for the Geico team - equipment, personnel and transport - as they did this past season. Team Hammer will do the same for Team M4 Suzuki with Dane Westby."I'm very happy to race next season with Geico because I believe this will be the number-one team in the paddock," the 29-year-old Cardenas said in a team release. "To be sponsored by a company like Geico is the best thing that can happen to a rider. I will do my best to put their name on the top of the podium each race."Despite reports that he was dropped from the team because of alleged indiscretions at a Geico company public relations function, Eslick says he is leaving on his own terms because he wants to race a Superbike in 2012."I didn't lose it," Eslick said of the Geico backing earlier this week.
"They are staying in SportBike and I'm moving up to Superbike. It's just a separate deal and I've got something else going on."As for what he has going to be riding in 2012, Eslick was mum on the subject."I'm looking at putting something together for a Superbike deal and I've got some stuff in the works, but I can't say too much right now," he said. "I'm good to go. I've been ready to move up, but it's a matter of having the right program put together to be competitive in Superbike. It's a whole different ballgame from SportBike and I just want to make sure we've got the best program we can put together. They're doing something else and I want to move up to Superbike."