Bruce Rossmeyers/RMR Buell's Danny Eslick was the surprise fast rider in the first-ever practice session for Daytona SportBikes at Daytona International Speedway.On a cool, windy, sunny morning, Eslick got the better of the few factory teams and the satellite efforts among the 85 entries for the Daytona 200. Eslick lapped the 3.58-mile Long Course, which includes both bankings, in a time of 1:49.491. The time didn't quite match the 1:49.198 turned in by Yamaha's Ben Bostrom during the December Dunlop tire tests, but it wasn't far off, and it was an impressive debut for the team and the rider. Eslick coolly said he wasn't surprised to be fastest. From the first time he rode it, not even a month ago at Jennings GP in north Florida, the Oklahoman saw the potential in the 1125R, "and then we did a few races in the CCS races last weekend and we got going to some pretty competitive times comparing them to the December tire test. Right now everything is looking forward. It's a good bike. I'm getting along with it really well and my crew chief Barry's [McMahan] awesome to work with and we've just the whole package here from the backing behind the team to mechanics and crew chief and team owner and everybody. And my teammate, Michael Barnes, is a big help. He's rode the Buells several times before."It's just the whole package is here right now for me. And I've done a bunch of training over the winter, a lot of dirt bike riding, and it's paid off. To show up in the first session and be fastest shows the guys have done their homework at the shop."The Buell is the first V-twin Eslick's every road raced, though he dirt tracked a Harley-Davidson 883 Sportster. The difference from the Suzukis he's grown up with is that the "power is down a lot lower in the rpm compared to the four-cylinders, which, it's awesome for me. The thing jumps off the corner like a missile. Just a couple thousand rpm and the thing's already making power. So for some of the stop and go tracks it's going to be really good for the Bruce Rossmeyer/RMR Buell team."Not only did the 1125R clock the fastest lap, it also had one of the fastest trap speeds. Eslick wasn't aware of the speed, but said of the Buell, "It's got big legs on it." It helps that the Buell 1125R's get a 20 pounds weight allowance not afforded to other V-twins.During the one hour session, Eslick was in and out of the pits and didn't get to ride with many of the top bikes, "but there's so many people out there it was easy to find a draft, maybe not just one guy, but you could hit one guy and the next guy. I think I hit five different bikes in one run from the chicane to the start-finish line."Eslick spent the last three years racing for Matsushima Racing, one of Suzuki's satellite teams. Two years ago he had his worst year. Last year was slightly better, but "things just didn't fall into place like they needed to be and now they are, so it shows."Eslicks' results from the past two years left him concerned that he wouldn't have a ride this year."I was definitely worried about it," Eslick said. "I was actually prepared to go dirt tracking. I want to be here road racing with everybody. The way things are, everybody's cutting back. I got the call a couple weeks ago and said, ‘Whatever I have to do.' If I've got to chop wood to get to the races and be there, then that's what I've got to do."What he has to do in this afternoon's session is just get more seat time."This is only, with all the races and everything I did, that's probably only the tenth time I've thrown a leg over it," he said. "So, every time we go out we're making progress.”

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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.

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