AMA FX: Hayes Storms to Daytona 200 Win
Two-time AMA Formula Xtreme champion Josh Hayes claimed the last major prize eluding him in the category on Saturday at Daytona International Speedway, walking away with the 67th Daytona 200.
While American Honda brought in a couple of ringers in five-time Daytona 200 winner Miguel DuHamel and former World and British Superbike king Neil Hodgson, Attack Kawasaki returned aiming to defend their ’07 200 1-2 with defending race winner Steve Rapp and the highly regarded Chaz Davies, and Hayes’ Erion Honda squad added ’06 Daytona 200 winner Jake Zemke to the mix, none could prevent the Mississippian from controlling the race as he has the class for the past two seasons.
Hayes’ riding and his crew’s work on his stops were flawless, while none of his rivals could say the same. As strong as he was on Saturday, it might not have mattered in any event, but certainly there was no way anyone could have hoped to rebound from a mistake and defeat him on this day.
One rider who did look capable of giving Hayes a battle, at least early in the race, was teammate Zemke. The two worked in tandem to break the pursuit of their challengers relatively early, swapping the lead back and forth as they drafted around the famed high banks together.
But just when it looked like they might settle into a 69-lap intersquad war for the checkered flag, Zemke’s hopes were dashed. The Erion crew was unable to get the rear wheel of his CBR600RR affixed during his first stop, forcing the frustrated Californian out of the race and dropping him four laps down before he made his way back into the fray. He persevered, however, and ultimately nabbed 13th place points, taking maximum advantage of the heavy attrition that took place throughout the day.
Meanwhile, DuHamel had an even more trying outing, coming in after the opening lap and switching to his backup bike. After fighting all the way up from 57th to fourth, the Canadian was black-flagged on lap 54 for illegally switching motorcycles (there was some confusion over whether or not a rider could swap to his backup bike at any point in the first three laps or only following a red flag). He finally came in and accepted the decision on lap 58.
Hodgson was the last man with a real shot at beating Hayes, sitting some four seconds back of the lead (everyone else was more than 20 seconds in arrears 2/3s of the way in), but the Briton overshot the chicane on lap 41.
The Honda ace had enough of an advantage to hold onto second and started rebuilding his lead over third, but his dreams of a debut Daytona 200 podium were shattered with just five laps remaining when he pulled off the course due to a mechanical issue.
Attack Kawasaki riders Chaz Davies and Steve Rapp had problems of their own, but still managed to back up the team’s ’07 1-2 with a 2-3 in ’08. Davies lost time early while suffering vibration in the rear of his ZX-6RR and later mistook Rapp’s pitboard for his own, coming in right in front of his teammate, who was forced to slowly cruise through pitlane and then return for another slow trip into the pits on the following lap. Both men kept their cool and put in commendable rides to start their title challenges off on the box.
Another early frontrunner, Michael Barnes on a M4 EMGO Suzuki GSX-R600, crashed heavily and was transported to the Halifax medical center.
Only three riders finished on the lead lap.
Leo Vince Ducati’s Larry Pegram picked up a fine fourth on his first competitive ride on the Ducati 848, while Colombian Martin Cardenas rounded out the top five following a lonely ride for the former Spanish Supersport champ.
Prior to the race BMW held a press conference stating they hoped to 1) finish and 2) break the top 20. It seemed overly optimistic when two BMWs went down on the opening lap, but they ultimately did much better than that. Richard Cooper and Brian Parriott finished in sixth and seventh aboard their BMW HP2 Sport machines.
Safety First Suzuki’s Bobby Fong took eighth, followed by Bostjan Skubic from Slovenia and Cycle News’ Steve Atlas on the Corona Honda.
The second round of the AMA Formula Xtreme Championship will take place at Barber Motorsports Park when the series travels to Alabama on April 18-20.