Joey Pascarella joined MotoUSA for a celebratory round of mini-golf while we picked his brain about winning the 2012 Daytona 200.
Motorcycle USA: So Joey, you just won the Daytona 200 yesterday; what are you going to do?
Joey Pascarella: Right now? Well we’re at Hawaiian Falls playing some mini golf!
You found out about three weeks ago that you were going to race here in Daytona. How did all that come about?
Basically I just gave Perry (from Project 1 Atlanta) a call just to say what’s up and see what he had going on and kind of pick his brain a little bit. One thing led to another, we talked to some people, got this thing together and ended up heading out here to do it.
After having no testing and basically just showing up you were one of the fastest guys from the beginning of practice one. What was going through your mind at that time?
I don’t really know, I actually just went out there and didn’t even really try. I went out there, rode around and actually pulled in a bunch of times and you know, got some stuff figured out. We made some adjustments on the bike and took it really easy. I just went out there and rode around, did my thing and learned the track – got used to the banking and stuff again. We were fourth at the end of the first session, and at the end of the first day I think we were third. The bike was good right off the bat and we just kind of worked on small stuff from there. Everything was just bitchin’ right from the start, and I can’t complain with that.
As far as making adjustments to the bike what was the main thing you worked on to get it set up?
I think the biggest thing we worked on was the front-end; we had some problems. We made a lot of front-end changes and that’s what gave me the most confidence. It was mostly just with some front-end push I was having, and we made changed every session. By final qualifying it was perfect.
What was your plan going into qualifying?
I basically just went out there and rode the best I could. I rode by myself pretty much the whole time and threw down the best laps I could without a draft to see what I could actually do on my own. It would have been cool to get the Rolex, but that definitely wasn’t my biggest worry. I was just trying to make sure I was on the front row and up front right off the bat in the race.
Drafting and quck pit stops were key factors in Pascarella and Project 1 Atlanta taking the win in the Daytona 200.
So did you set your fast lap with or without a draft?
Of course you’re going to go out there and try to find a draft – it definitely helps a lot. It just seemed like every time I would try to go for my fast lap there was never a draft, and I always ended up on my own. When we came in for a new set of tires I was by myself because there was less people in Group A so there was nobody around me. I put my head down and did the best I could without a draft.
I know we had a couple choices of Dunlop tires for the weekend, a U.S. 180/60 or a UK 180/55 in the rear and a hard or medium for the front. What did you choose?
We ran the bigger tire on the rear. We tried the smaller one on Friday, and I liked the bigger one a little bit better. For the front, I’m pretty sure we ran the medium.
Before the race did you guys have a strategy going onto the thing?
I mean we definitely talked about the pit stops with the crew and they obviously knew what lap they were going to have me come in, they’ve done it for a couple years in a row so they knew when they wanted me to come in. The pit stops were great, but the race strategy was pretty standard. I knew I was never going to be alone, and once I got out there I knew nobody was going to be pulling away. There wasn’t one lap through the whole race where I actually pushed. I still had some left in me and could go even faster, but there was no reason to push over my head, make a mistake or go wide and crash. I just rode smart, smooth, and clicked off every lap.
So we’re at hole number nine, the Wild West Timber Jumper, halfway through this thing… Anyway, You qualified 4th and uhh… I qualified 40th… What were you thinking when you pulled in and you knew you put it on the front row?
I knew I had what it takes to stay with those guys. I just kind of laid down in my hotel room and knew I had a shot at it. I was really confident Saturday when we were sitting on the grid. I was sitting there and believed in myself, I knew I could do it and I just had a lot of confidence going into the race.
Pascarella didn’t get the start he wanted but was up front by the second lap with Beaubier hot on his tail.
How did your start go? What happened when the red light went off?
The start went terrible. I think I was like 8th. I didn’t get a really good jump. I think I turned in too early and went through the grass on the inside. I got a little wide, but then I got around a couple people. I got around (Huntley) Nash in the horseshoe and got by (Jake) Zemke right before the first banking, then just tried to close up on the front group. I used the draft to catch right back up to them, and I think by the second lap we were in the lead.
From the start of the race to the first pit stop, how did the race go?
The first stint definitely had the most guys; there were about six or seven guys and there was a lot more drafting going on. But after the first pit stop everyone kind of got separated; then it was just Dane [Westby], me, Cameron [Beaubier], and [Martin] Cardenas. I think that was it after the first stop; it got narrowed down. After the second stop it was basically me and Cameron until the last few laps when Cardenas and [Jason] DiSalvo snuck in. But the race before the first pit stop was definitely more of a race than after.
What were some of the main things to focus on to make sure you stayed out front the whole race?
Well, first off, not wearing a hole through my foot. I wore a hole through my boot doing leg-outs into all the turns. I kept feeling my sock hit the ground. I kept thinking about that and how my foot kept getting hot. But staying out front with the draft, everyone is pretty much the same speed and you’re always right there. Once you get on the banking you just draft past them and it’s the same thing every lap. So I wasn’t too worried cause I knew if someone got out in front of me the draft would just carry me right back past them. I just had to make sure I didn’t make any big mistakes so I didn’t have to make up a big gap, because then it becomes a little bit more work.
So during the race did you have any problems with any lappers?
There were some that I didn’t get around very cleanly, but you know, they all have their own races going on, so it’s all good.
So on that last lap you guys came up on a back marker going into the chicane for the final time and it got a little sketchy. What was going on in your head at that time? Were you nervous?
Nah, I didn’t get nervous out there. Everyone was like, “Oh, Melissa got in the way.” But I don’t think Melissa got in the way at all. I know she was racing her race and that’s how things fly. Even if I were on a cool down lap somebody wouldn’t be able to pass me there; that is just the way it is. I just got around her cleanly and went on to the checkered flag.
So coming on to that banking for the final time did you have a strategy at all with drafting or getting drafted to the line?
Nah, I just sent it into the checkered flag. Of course I thought about people drafting passed me, but my bike was pretty strong. So I would have felt stupid if I let somebody go by and then not be able to pass them back; I would have felt like an idiot! So I just went for it. I held on all the way to the checkered flag and that’s all that matters.
So you win the Daytona 200, you crossed the finish line with your first Daytona SportBike win. What’s going through your mind as this is happening?
I was like holy mother effing s**t! I just won this thing. I just rode normal on the last lap, I didn’t want to throw it away on the last lap. I didn’t even know. I didn’t celebrate; I don’t do burnouts or wheelies because I was afraid I’d loop out or something. I just gave a little fist pump and just couldn’t believe it. I still can’t believe it. I won the Daytona 200! Being this young it’s pretty crazy, and it’s really only my first attempt at winning it. It’s my first DSB win and the first win of the year – the first time with the team. I just can’t believe we did it. I’m in shock still and we’re so taking a picture on that boat right now (pointing at a shipwrecked pirate boat hanging above the 17th hole).
So you had a one race deal going into this thing with Project 1 Atlanta, what are your plans for the rest of the season?
Well it’s not 100% official, but I just found out today from the team that it sounds like we’re going to Road Atlanta. I’m pretty pumped about that. I love that track and I’m glad to be going back there. And I’m glad to be working with the team again. I definitely think I have the potential to win more races this season. I just want to be a threat at every round.
Any final words?
I’m going to Road Atlanta just like I came into this race and just give it my all. I’m not going to leave anything on the table; I’m just going to go there and do my best. I definitely have to thank the whole Project 1 Atlanta team, John Block Group and Mach 1 Motorsports. I’m just glad to go and do that with those guys again, and If anyone else wants to come on board it would definitely help get me through the rest of the season.
1st Place – Joey Pascarella 38
2nd Place – Justin Dawes 39
3rd Place – Frankie Garcia 41