The following is from AMA Pro Racing...A full field of motorcycles and international riders - including 84 AMA Pro Daytona SportBike entries for the 68th annual Daytona 200 by Honda - is heading to Daytona International Speedway next week for the debut event of the new AMA Pro Road Racing series.
AMA Pro Road Racing's four series have attracted a combined total of 170 entries, including the biggest field in four years and one of the largest in decades for the Daytona 200 by Honda. The race will be part of AMA Pro Road Racing's historic opening weekend with the first night running of the Daytona 200 under the lights, Friday, March 6. The advent of the new Daytona SportBike class will also bring the Daytona 200 action back to the full 3.55-mile legendary Daytona road course for the first time since 2004.
The AMA Pro American Superbike division shares the spotlight with the Daytona SportBikes at Daytona and attracted a strong entry of 41 motorcycles for its debut 2009 race. A 15-lap American Superbike sprint at 3:30 p.m. highlights the racing on Thursday, March 5, while the Daytona SportBike Daytona 200 starts at 8 p.m. Friday night for 57 laps under the lights.
With AMA Pro Road Racing's pair of premier classes accounting for 125 of the 170 entries, the starting field in each race will be full of past, present and future legends of AMA Pro Road Racing. Former Daytona 200 winners Jake Zemke (No. 1x Erion Racing Honda CBR600RR), Steve Rapp (No. 15 Black Hole Racing Aprilia RSV) and reigning race champion Chaz Davies (No. 57 Factory Aprilia/Millennium Technologies Team Aprilia RSV) will join record five-time winner Miguel Duhamel (No. 17 Team Suzuki/Blackfoot/Picotte Racing Suzuki GSX-R600) in looking for another Daytona 200 victory.
Top riders gunning for a first Daytona 200 win include factory Yamaha teammates Ben Bostrom (No. 1s Team Graves Yamaha YZF-R6) and Josh Hayes (No. 4 Team Graves Yamaha YZF-R6), who is looking to avenge 2008's heartbreak after what appeared to be a convincing victory was taken away when his motorcycle failed post-race inspection. Chris Peris (No. 10 Erion Racing Honda CBR600RR), Jamie Hacking (No. 88 Monster Energy/Attack Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R), teammates Jason DiSalvo (No. 40 M4 Suzuki GSX-R600) and Martin Cardenas (No. 36 M4 Suzuki GSX-R600) and Yamaha's young standouts Josh Herrin (No. 8 Team Graves Yamaha YZF-R6) and 16-year-old Tommy Aquino (No. 6 Team Graves Yamaha YZF-R6) will also be among the dozens of riders with a legitimate shot at victory.
Proven 600cc racing bikes from Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Kawasaki anchor the Daytona 200 entry list but the new Daytona SportBike class is home to a diverse lineup of motorcycles. Rapp and Davies are joined in the Aprilia camp by Hooters Aprilia teammates Shane Narbonne (No. 12 Hooters Aprilia RSV) and Ryan Elleby (No. 21 Hooters Aprilia RSV), Ty Howard (No. 67 Ridesmart Motorcycle Schools Aprilia RSV), Scott Jensen (No. 76 Black Hole Racing Aprilia RSV) and Ben Thompson (No. 97 Factory Aprilia/Millennium Technologies Team Aprilia RSV).
Buell is also well represented with six 1125Rs entered for Danny Eslick (No. 9 Bruce Rossmeyer's Daytona Racing/RMR Buell 1125R), Shawn Higbee (No.11 Higbee-Racing.com Buell1125R), Bryan Bemisderfer (No. 98 HDFR Buell 1125R), Latus teammates Josh Bryan (No. 45 Latus Motor Racing Buell 1125R) and Alan Schmidt (No. 54 Latus Motor Racing Buell 1125R) and Michael Barnes (No. 34 GEICO Powersports/RMR Buell 1125R). Barnes is recovering from a third metacarpal fracture hand injury from an early February testing accident but is using this weekend's CCS event to assess his readiness for the Daytona 200.A pair of Ducati 848s are entered for Calvin Martinez (No. 20 Wisconsin Racing Ducati 848) and Gene Burcham (No. 94 GBR Motors Ducati 848) as well as two Triumph Daytona 675s for Mark Crozier (No. 14 Crozier Motorsports Triumph Daytona 675) and second-generation rider Justin Filice (No. 30 Bud Light Lime/R & B Motorsports Triumph Daytona 675), son of AMA Pro Hall-of-Famer Jimmy Filice.Flag-to-flag coverage of the Daytona 200 by Honda will air on SPEED Friday, March 6, at 8:30 p.m. ET.
American Superbike Stars
While the AMA Pro Daytona SportBike riders will shine in the Friday-night lights of the Daytona 200, the stars of AMA Pro American Superbike will take the spotlight on Thursday afternoon.
In addition to moonlighting in the 200 on their Yamaha Daytona SportBikes, Bostrom (No. 2 Yamaha Motor Corp. USA Yamaha R1) and Hayes (No. 4 Yamaha Motor Corp. USA Yamaha R1) will contest the full 2009 American Superbike season on Yamaha's latest R1 motorcycle. They will be among the American Superbike stars looking to kick off the year with a victory at Daytona and Bostrom and Hayes lead a seven-bike Yamaha American Superbike entry.
Another top threat is six-time defending Daytona American Superbike race winner Mat Mladin (No. 7 Rockstar/Makita Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000) who is looking for his second Daytona win in a row and fourth in five years. Mladin's teammates at Yoshimura Suzuki include quick Americans Tommy Hayden (No. 22 Rockstar/Makita Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000) and Blake Young (No. 79 Rockstar/Makita Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000).
Other Suzuki threats come from Jordan Suzuki, Roadracingworld.com/M4 and Team Hooters. The Michael Jordan-owned Jordan Suzuki effort includes bikes for Georgia-based riders Aaron Yates (No. 23 Jordan Suzuki GSX-R1000) and Geoff May (No. 54 National Guard Jordan Suzuki GSX-R1000), Chris Ulrich rides for M4 (No. 18 Roadracingworld.com Suzuki GSX-R1000) and Daytona 200 competitors Narbonne (No. 12 Hooters Suzuki GSX-R1000) and Elleby (No. 21 Hooters Suzuki GSX-R1000) are also on Team Hooters American Superbikes. In total, a class-high 25 Suzuki GSX-R1000s are entered in the American Superbike race.
Honda's charge is led by former World Superbike Champion Neil Hodgson (No. 100 Corona Extra Honda CBR1000RR) and Australia's Aaron Gobert (No. 96 AGR Inc. Honda CBR1000RR) who top a five-bike Honda entry.
A lone Buell and three Ducatis will also be in the hunt. Higbee (No. 11 Higbee-Racing.com Buell 1125CR) rides the Buell while Larry Pegram (No. 72 Foremost Insurance/Pegram Racing Ducati 1098R) is expected to be the pacesetter of the trio of Italian-made motorcycles.The American Superbike race will be featured in the premiere of the new AMA Pro Prime Time on SPEED Saturday, March 21, at 11 p.m. ET (8 p.m. PT).
SuperSport Send Off
The Daytona 200 by Honda weekend also marks the debut of the new AMA Pro SuperSport class, which is AMA Pro's showcase of America's future motorcycle racing stars today. The proving ground series is reserved strictly for up-and-coming riders between the ages of 16 and 21 who compete on 600cc sport bikes that are only minimally modified from what you will find at your local Suzuki, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Honda and other motorcycle dealerships.
SuperSport is also divided into East and West Championships although the Daytona kick-off is a combined race that has attracted two dozen young up and comers. The green flag is scheduled to drop for the 12-lap SuperSport race at 2 p.m. on Thursday.
A second combined East/West race will be held later in the year at Heartland Park Topeka while a SuperSport Shootout Finale will be held during the season-ending AMA Pro Road Racing weekend back at Daytona in October.
New SunTrust Moto-GT Moniker
The fourth and final series in the 2009 AMA Pro Road Racing lineup is the renamed AMA Pro SunTrust Moto-GT class. It is the only class in AMA Pro Road Racing that features multi-class racing with teams of riders that share a single motorcycle in a race. The original SunTrust MOTO-ST name has been slightly revamped to AMA Pro SunTrust Moto-GT, which reflects
some class adjustments and the fact that even more motorcycles are now eligible.
The biggest changes are that the competition is no longer strictly reserved for two-cylinder motorcycles and that the previous three classes have been narrowed to just two, making it easier for race fans to follow both the overall battle while watching a "race within a race." The former premier SST category has been renamed GT1 and will feature a wider mix of potentially more powerful multi-cylinder motorcycles.
The former GST and ST classes have been essentially replaced by GT2. Two-cylinder motorcycles remain the only type allowed in GT2, but variety is also part of the mix with several different types of bikes and engines eligible.
While things have been shaken up as far as classes and eligible motorcycles are concerned, the format of the racing has changed little. Team and multi-rider based, several riders share each competing bike and SunTrust Moto-GT is the only series in AMA Pro Road Racing that features rider changes during pit stops. SunTrust Moto-GT also features a variety of riders, from young up-and-coming talent to Hall-of-Famers like Jay Springsteen (No. 9 Pair-A-Nines Kawasaki Ninja 650R GT2) and former Daytona 200 winner John Ashmead (No. 37 Old Pros Racing Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R GT1).
The season-opening two-hour SunTrust Moto-GT race will be run at 4 p.m. on Friday, March 6.
Cool Contingency Cash
The total team support package for the 2009 season-opening Daytona 200 by Honda weekend, March 4 - 6, is the richest purse in the event's history with a total of $286,000 on the line.
The lucrative Daytona weekend, however, is just the kick-off event to potentially even more bonuses available to AMA Pro Road Racing competitors this season. More than $1.8 million in posted contingency awards from AMA Pro Road Racing and its proud contingency partners is up for grabs by eligible competitors this season.