Coming away from this year’s Daytona 200 weekend (the event’s 70th running), it would be an understatement to simply say that there was a lot to talk about. There was the massive controversy surrounding the red flags, restarts, front tires failures, overall race distance and the confusion about whether or not swapping an engine in the middle of an endurance race is even legal/fair (which we’re still waiting for clarification on). One could easily get lost in discussions and retellings of the on-track battles, the crashes, rekindled rivalries from last season or the simple fact that the race weekend started off losing almost an entire day due to rain. But even through all of that, there was something else going on at the Daytona International Speedway. And it’s something that definitely needs to be noted. That something is ‘momentum’.
We saw momentum late in the 200 when Jason DiSalvo decided he didn’t want to finish off of the podium. As a result of that thinking, he pushed harder and harder into each corner of the closing laps to bring himself to the top of the order by the time the checkered flag flew. We also saw some positive momentum for AMA Pro Racing too. In spite of the controversy, it felt like this weekend’s season opener really showed the momentum needed to renew the AMA Pro Racing Series.
In 2009 we all witnessed a lot in the AMA Pro Racing paddock. And going back to that time, a lot of it was not good. It wasn’t good for the teams, riders, fans, sponsors and in the end it wasn’t good for the AMA. Much credibility was lost and it was lost on multiple fronts. But that was then. Moving forward a lot of those things have changed for the better. There has been an in house reorganizing of staff. We as consumers of the sport have been given a new website (www.amaproracing.com). There have been modifications to the schedule. The number of team approved testing dates has been increased.
Clarifications to the rule book are available upon the asking. Media relations and the overall marketing of the series has hit any entirely new level with new staffing, the use of Facebook, Twitter (@AMAproSBK) and with the AMA Pro Road Racing iPhone/Droid app coming online. On a lot of levels it seems as though there are many things happening now that will pan out for the better once they’ve picked up some speed. And in terms of what’s listed here; these things are what’s changing behind the scenes. On the track we saw for the first time what else is store for us and where this series seems to be headed.
For the first time in the last few years we are witnessing a positive progression in the series, with the promotion of riders through the classes. Meaning, riders aren’t branching out to other series. They’re racing here. Martin Cardenas into the American SuperBike class is just the start of what’s at work. Forget that fact that he was a rookie to American SuperBike. Forget the differences between the size of last year’s 600 and this year’s 1000. Martin showed everyone that he was not to be taken lightly, that he was ready to move up into the big class and fight. His quietly confident face will be one that is shown a lot over the course of this season, and for very good reason.
But with Cardenas gone from Daytona SportBike, there wasn’t even a chance for us to miss him there. Just as he’s moved up, a new crop of riders have moved up or simply continued to mature and fill this class with an incredibly deep field of talent. Josh Herrin and Danny Eslick are still there. Cory West, Dane Westby and PJ Jacobsen are coming off of impressive years respectively and each has a head of steam as they’re confidence grows. Taylor Knapp and DiSalvo are here now and if the 200 was any indication, they mean business. Then comes the freshmen; the new blood in DSB. JD Beach, Joey Pascrella, Huntley Nash, Cameron Beaubier. A few of the names from last year’s SuperSport graduating class. All of whom have the ability and desire to learn and fight their way to the front.
And yes, this cycle is repeating itself in the SuperSport class already. Tomas Puerta returns with fire in his belly. “I want Laguna,” is what he said after walking away from a dominating performance in Friday’s Race 1. The LTD Yamaha team started the year off with an amazing weekend; two victories, one coming by way of their new rider David Gaviria in Saturday’s Race 2. James Rispoli’s program is sharpening itself up for another strong year. Elena Myers is still in the mix and we saw the rookie sensation of Benny Solis Jr. on the Roadracing World Honda.
Tomas Puerta (#12) encountered little resistance during the opening round at Daytona and took a convincing win in Race 1.
The evidence is in front of us now. It seems as though we’re truly seeing the first stages of a re-birth for our national road racing series. The new era of superbike racing in the US may very well be upon us. And the momentum needed to get us there is coming in the form of a new approach by the AMA to engage and communicate with not only its teams, but their fan base. There’s also new faces and names racing for wins each time on the track. Maybe we’ll also start to see new teams and sponsors supporting the maturing and expanding field of talent.
Momentum might just be building it up to usher in the next era of superbikes here in the US. Bring on Infineon.