LEEDS, AL, SEPT 26 - One year after injuries denied him the chance to fight for the Daytona SportBike title, M4 Monster Energy Suzuki's Martin Cardenas won the championship with an emphatic win in the nine race shootout that followed a red flag on a mostly wet Barber Motorsports Park track.Cardenas came into the race with a three point led on Geico Powersports/RMR Suzuki's Danny Eslick and nine on Team Graves Yamaha's Josh Herrin. It was the latter two riders who would provide most of the drama, drama which allowed Cardenas to break away and take his class-leading ninth race in 18 tries. More on that later.By adding Sunday's win to Saturday's victory, Cardenas overcame the 12 point deficit he brought to Barber following the penultimate round at New Jersey Motorsports Park.Eslick had come with the points lead, 356 to 345 for Herrin, and 344 for Cardenas. But after Saturday's win, with Herrin third and Eslick slowed to fifth by a bad front tire, Cardenas was suddenly in the lead by three points.The first attempt at the race ended on the 14th lap when the leading Project 1 Atlanta Yamahas of Dane Westby and Clinton Seller crashed out, one after the other. At the time, Cardenas was third and certain to win the title. Herrin and Eslick were farther back after one run-in, the lesser of the two.Eslick ran up the inside of Herrin into turn four on the sixth lap, got in hot, ran wide, and ran Herrin off track. He rejoined the race in eighth. And would be back up to sixth when the red flag came out.The second incident came in the same corner on the 19th lap and landed Herrin in the gravel trap. He remounted, raced to 11th, then chased Eslick on the final lap to have a few words. The real words came later, with each tossing barbs at the other."He's always got this thing where he likes to lean on me from the outside," Eslick said." It's about the dumbest thing you can do if somebody's up the inside. I don't know why you'd lean on anybody. Lean on somebody, he's going to run you wide and that's what happened the first time. And he started chasing me back down I guess. After the red flag we had a few more moments here and there. You know, if you're going to be an idiot, I'll treat you like one."Said Herrin, "Yeah it sucked. I mean the worst race ever. But you know, I rode the race I knew I could've won. Came back from the first time he knocked me off the track. Caught back up to him. Just I just can't make myself ride like that, I can't myself ride dirty and I'm sure if I would've it would've turned out pretty bad. Just tried to ride as clean as I could and just got taken out. There was nothing we could really do about it. Just got back up. Hoped that karma would've got him."Countered Eslick, "We've never been friends by any means. Yeah, it started this weekend in qualifying when he was looking behind and coming up the front straightaway and never got out of the way and seen me coming, obviously, unless he's blind. And he wouldn't get off the line and I stuck it in there and ended up crashing and tearing up a good bike. That was me being a little bit of an idiot on that one and being frustrated. We've never been buddies and we're never going to be buddies and it's going to continue on for as long as our careers go."Herrin said, "It doesn't' every surprise me when he does something stupid. It surprised me that he actually did it and looked back to see, oh, what did it do? What surprises me the most is that he rides for a guy who is so high on the sport and is such a good person and just lets his guy do that. it makes me sick a little bit." Herrin added, "There's nothing we can do but come back next year and I guess just give him what he deserves. If he wants to ride like that we'll just ride like that with him."Herrin was frustrated on the cooldown lap, but not "dumb enough to get in a fight or do anything stupid like that, but I wanted to let him know how I feel. Wanted to let him go to sleep at night knowing he lost the championship just because he wanted to fight with me and I lost it."The reference was to Eslick taking himself and handing the lead to Cardenas, who ran with it, winning the race by 1.687 secs."I see that these two guys were passing each other a few times very close and I just tried to stay behind them and see what was going to happen and then I saw that Herrin crashed and two laps from the end I tried to make a move on Danny and I pass him and try to put a very good two laps so he couldn't maybe stretch the gap in a little bit and I heard that he almost crashed and, yeah, I put in like a second and then I knew it was possible to win, so it worked out," Cardenas said. He'd been in the title hunt last year until breaking his hand at the penultimate round at Virginia International Raceway. The injuries forced him out of the final race in New Jersey, where Eslick clinched the title."Yeah, it feels awesome also for the team, because it was my errors last year that we could've got the championship because we were very close and I made a few mistakes. Also this year I made quite a few mistakes, but at the end I could win the championship. Mostly I'm very happy for them, because they've been working very hard and it's a very good team, the best team that I've ever been with and they deserve that championship, so I'm very happy for them."Dane Westby finished third after all the Yamaha teams pitched in to repair his and Seller's motorcycles. His crash was a high-side that caused him to joke, "I haven't been that high in the air for a long time, but it was kind of refreshing. Got a little air under my armpits."Westby added, "I‘d really like to thank my Yamaha crew. They put my bike together in about two seconds. Literally about 30 seconds before the horn they got it going again, the P1A (Project 1 Atlanta) guys, the Pat Clark (Motorsports) guys, the Yamaha guys. It's been a really great year riding on the blue bike."

Daytona SportBike Results:

1. Martin Cardenas (Suzuki)

2. Danny Eslick (Suzuki)

3. Dane Westby (Yamaha)

4. Paul Allison (Yamaha)

5. Chris Fillmore (Suzuki)

6. Cory West (Suzuki)

7. Steve Rapp (Ducati)

8. Tommy Aquino (Yamaha)

9. Clinton Seller (Yamaha)

10. Kyle Wyman (Yamaha)

AMA Pro Racing Headlines

Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor

Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.

Comments