In his usual quiet, yet effective way, Team M4 Monster Energy Suzuki rider Martin Cardenas once again took a well-judged and hard-fought victory here today in the first of two AMA Pro Daytona SportBike presented by AMSOIL motorcycle races at Infineon Raceway.
Once again, the Daytona SportBikes showed the fans and SPEED TV viewers just how competitive this class is with another thrilling battle in the hills of Sonoma, California's 2.32-mile, eleven-turn road course. Cardenas, a double winner here last year and also at the last race at Road Atlanta, continued his winning ways with a race-long battle with pole position winner Tommy Aquino (Team Graves Yamaha), reigning Daytona SportBike Champion Danny Eslick (Geico Powersports/RMR Suzuki) and 2010 Daytona SportBike points leader Josh Herrin.
Also in the mix was Project 1 Atlanta Yamaha rider Dane Westby and DNR Energy Drink/CNR Motorsports Ducati man Bobby Fong. Aquino led from pole, again in search of his first win, but the ever-present Eslick passed Aquino but couldn't get away from the tightly bunched first four riders.
Herrin, Cardenas and Westby were right together and eventually Cardenas passed Herrin and then got by Aquino and thus began a stirring battle between the aggressive Eslick and the smooth yet fast Cardenas.
Westby and Fong were having their own private battle until Fong unfortunately suffered a fall in turn four, ending his day. As the leaders battled amongst themselves, the many other Daytona SportBike competitors began to become factors as the fast guys sliced and diced their way through the traffic.
More than once it seemed that disaster was imminent only to have the leaders pull through and continue their battles unabated. Cardenas pulled a superb passing maneuver by going around the outside of Eslick going into the turn nine right/left complex. But, Eslick is never beaten and he got back by Cardenas at the top of the circuit a couple of times with an inside move of his own.
Cardenas never lost his cool and he repassed Danny after the two ran side-by-side through what was thought to be a one line only series of turns. The matter was finally and unfortunately settled coming out of the last turn on the penultimate lap when a back marker just bulked Danny enough coming out of the turn, allowing Cardenas to get the slightest gap he needed to hold off the ever-charging Eslick for the win in race one of two Daytona SportBike races this weekend.
Aquino and Westby also battled all the way to the flag, followed by a traffic-delayed Josh Herrin. Vesrah Suzuki rider Chris Fillmore was sixth and Westby's Project 1 Atlanta Yamaha teammate, Clinton Seller in seventh. Front-row starter Steve Rapp had a slight problem at the start on his Team Latus Motors Ducati but battled back from 24th to eighth place at the finish.
Race two of the doubleheader AMA Pro Road Racing weekend at Infineon Raceway will be tomorrow and it remains to be seen if Eslick can get his first win of the season, or if Aquino can take his first Daytona SportBike win.
Race Two Recap
Danny Eslick finally attained his first AMA Pro Daytona SportBike presented by AMSOIL win of the 2010 season on Sunday afternoon in the final race of the West Coast Moto Jam at Infineon Raceway's 2.32-mile natural road course.
In a weekend that saw riders in each class take well deserved wins, no one was happier and more relieved than Eslick. The reigning Daytona SportBike champion showed that consistency is key, once again pushing his GEICO Powersports Richie Morris Racing Suzuki to the maximum to earn a hard-fought victory over the 31-bike field and take control of the point standings with his fifth podium finish in the season's seven races.
Over the course of the 22-lap sprint race, nine different riders occupied the top five spots. Eslick surged to the front almost immediately and had to battle intensely in a quest for his first 2010 race win. The lead freight train was rarely separated by more than a second and although Eslick led 19 laps, it was never truly clear who was poised to take the top spot.
Josh Herrin on his Team Graves Yamaha, Steve Rapp with his Team Latus Motors Racing Ducati, Martin Cardenas on his Saturday race one winning M4 Monster Energy Suzuki and pole sitter Tommy Aquino on his Team Graves Yamaha all took the fight to Eslick with intentions to take the win.
Cardenas suffered an early mishap in the turn nine left/right complex and wasn't able to continue after coming together with another rider, but it was Rapp, who took the lead from Eslick on lap 17, that was poised to be the rider to once again deny Eslick of a 2010 win. In a cruel twist, Rapp unfortunately had the bike slide out from under him while leading lap 21. He was able to rejoin the fray to finish a brave 16th.
A number of other riders also had falls today, one of which necessitated a red flag. Russ Wikle went down in turn five and Michael Beck unfortunately made inevitable contact with him. Wikle was airlifted to Santa Rosa Medical Center for further examination. He was awake and alert when he left the track and was undergoing further examination at the hospital. He had spoken to his parents but the full extent of his injuries was still being evaluated.
When the race wound down, Daytona 200 winner Herrin took second and Dane Westby riding his Project 1 Atlanta Yamaha closed out the podium in third place, his third podium this season. Polesitter Tommy Aquino, who led three laps in Saturday's race and never fell below seventh position this weekend, battled his way to a fourth place finish.
Fifth was Cory West on his Vesrah Suzuki, followed by Bobby Fong in sixth, who ran as high as second position in the early stages of the race aboard his DNA Energy Drink CNR Motorsports Ducati. Seventh was the second Vesrah Suzuki of Chris Fillmore, eighth was P.J. Jacobson riding for Celtic Racing Suzuki. Eli Edwards took ninth with his Edwards Racing Yamaha and rounding out the top ten was Tyler Odom riding a Honda for Erion Racing.
Eslick completed the day with a spectacular wheelie for the television cameras and also a loud, smokey burnout as he pulled into the Infineon Raceway victory lane. Sunday's first place finish marked Eslick's eighth career AMA Pro Daytona SportBike presented by AMSOIL win, but if his consistent finishes so far this year are any indication, expect to see him in victory lane at least once a weekend for the rest of the season.
Next up for the series will be the classic four mile road course through the Kettle Moraine country of Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin's Road America, June 4-6. Visit http://www.amaproracing.com/ for all the latest information and results.