In an era of cookie cutter motorcycle racer personalities, Danny Eslick is one of those classic motorcycling wild men. Over the years he’s developed a reputation for his hard charging riding style on track and his fun loving, yet ever so slightly brash personality off track. Love him or hate him, Eslick is a rider who gives fans something to watch. After winning the inaugural Daytona Sportbike Championship in ’09 aboard the now extinct Buell 1125R, Eslick silenced critics when he almost won last year’s championship on a Suzuki GSX-R600. This year Eslick is returning to the Richie Morris Racing/Geico Powersports Suzuki team in hopes of bringing home another title. We caught up with him during the 2011 Suzuki GSX-R600 First Ride review from Barber Motorsports Park.
PREPERATION FOR THE DAYTONA 200:
I’m looking forward to it. We had a pretty decent run last year during the 200. This year we are putting a lot of emphasis on pit stops because it’s the one race in the year we have pit stops to contend with. I’m looking forward to qualifying well and making it through the first round of pit stops. Hopefully everything goes good after that and maybe we will be running up front or leading and making it to the second pits stops and being there at the end of the 200 miles.
HOW CAN YOU WIN THIS YEAR’S CHAMPIONSHIP:
I think getting through Daytona with some good points and leading the race. I was consistent last year and won a couple of races but it comes down to winning races. I won three races last year and I think Martin [Cardenas] won nine races to take the championship last year. The biggest thing is just winning races.
YOUR RACE CRAFT HAS REALLY IMPROVED THE LAST FEW YEARS, EXPLAIN:
Since I have been on the Geico Powersports Suzuki team things have just clicked. The crew that I have had behind me working on the bikes has been really good and just having a really good solid team behind me. I have always felt that I have ridden well and I think having the entire package is a huge help. With the right sponsors such as Geico Powersports, RMR, Suzuki, Millennium Technologies, Lucas Oil and everyone else who has been a help really adds to the team and when I show up, I know the bike is right and ready to race.
WHAT YOU THINK OF THE NEW ’11 SUZUKI GSX-R600:
The bike is awesome. We just started testing it down in Florida last week. It’s kind of hard to compare since it has been a while since I rode the old race bike to the new one. The bike seems fast with great horsepower. It seems to change directions well and be pretty nimble through all the fast direction changes. I’m looking forward to riding and racing it this year. I think it will be another step forward compared to last year’s GSX-R—you know Martin [Cardenas] won the championship on the old Suzuki so hopefully we can carry the momentum and win on the new model. I’m the one man gig on the Geico squad this year and hopefully we can go put it down this year.
WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN UP TO DURING THE OFF-SEASON:
It’s been a long off-season. I have been spending a lot of time in the woods deer hunting and playing with guns [laughs] and just kind of hanging out and enjoying the time off. But it’s time to get the leathers on and get back after it. I’m looking forward to it.
Danny Eslick (#1) broke into the lead on the final lap with Cory West (#57) and Josh Herrin (#8) close behind. – VIR
THIS YEAR’S COMPETITION:
I think it will be the same few guys up there. There were a couple of guys that showed some potential last year and will be stepping it up and be running at the front. I think the same players from last year and maybe a few of the guys from Supersport might be stepping up. Last year there would be five or six guys that can win maybe a few more and then another couple of guys that have a shot of running up front and racing for podiums. There is no doubt in my mind that it will be just as exciting as last year if not more.
ABOUT HIS WILD, TAKE NO PRISONERS RIDING STYLE:
You know this is the top level of racing here in the States and whenever you’re racing guys like [Martin] Cardenas and Cory West it gets aggressive. You have to stick a wheel in there whenever you get a chance. It’s not like you can turn on your blinker and go ahead and go by. It does really work that way. You have to make a hole where you can take it and be aggressive. A little rubbing here and there is racing. That’s just how I grew up. Racing flat track and banging bars and rubbing. I guess being on bikes that I’ve had to ride the wheels off of while I was growing up and being on underpowered equipment made me a really aggressive rider. Now that I’m some of the best equipment out there—if not the best equipment—maybe I won’t have to ride quite as aggressive. But when it comes right down to it and your racing for a championship you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.
YOUR TAKE ON THE AMA ROAD RACING SERIES:
It was definitely a little rough the first year but now it seems to be getting a heck of a lot better. The right people are in the right places. Even from the spectators point of few it seems to be getting better and team owners and everybody seems to be much happier with the way things are rolling. I’m enjoying it. I like being a part of the AMA and the series. I think they are doing a good job of trying to promote the races a little better and get some spectators out there.
WHAT IS IT GOING TO TAKE TO GET THE AMA SERIES TO THE NEXT LEVEL:
I think we could see more done at the local level when it comes to promoting races. You don’t see any advertisements in town about the race, you might hear a radio advertisement but there is really no advertisement out there except to the direct motorcycle community who are already hardcore fans. I think it’s reaching the general public who are not motorcycle enthusiasts. It may be a car racing fan or a football fan but reaching those everyday people is where we can see a growth. If those people come out and watch one race then I think they would be hooked.
TALK ABOUT YOUR NEW LEATHER SPONSOR:
I’m wearing RS Taichi leathers this year and I’m looking forward to working with them. Right now I’m wearing an off the shelf suit and they are working on my custom suit that will be looking fancy, fitting good and ready to go for Daytona. I hopefully won’t have to road test them too soon [laughs]. I’m really happy to be with a company that is going to put some good leathers on me.
YOUR BIG PRACTICE CRASH AT FONTANA BACK IN NOVEMBER ’10:
Back on the weekend of Thanksgiving we were testing out there in Fontana and had a bad crash. My mechanic and I were working together playing with some settings and such. It happened after a red flag in turn one and I think we were doing about 140 mph or something like that and it kind of got me. That one jumped up and bit me and really didn’t feel too good [laughs].
’10 Daytona Sportbike champion Martin Cardenas and runner-up Danny Eslick were onhand at Barber Motorsports Park for the ’11 GSX-R600 launch.
RELATIONSHIP WITH MARTIN CARDENAS WHO YOU SEEM TO GET ALONG WELL AND RACE HARD:
Racing with Martin has been a lot of fun in the past few years. Even before we were both really on the radar we both were racing Superstock in ’07 or ’08. We had some good races. Martin had his own private Ninja 1000 he was running. He rode the wheels off it. He and I have raced since ‘07 and we never touched once. And we’ve been side by side, I don’t know how many times. That’s how hard we both race and we have been close but never have touched in all the years racing together. That says a lot for both of us. You know when you’re racing a guy for a championship and you’re that close it really shows how much respect you have for each other.