This year's Daytona 200 was shaping up to be a barn-burner, with a pack of seven riders romping around the famous Speedway in close formation. But things took a dramatic and unexpected turn at the first window for pit stops.
The Attack Kawasaki crew changes tires and refuels eventual race-winner Steve Rapp's Kawasaki ZX-6R during the 66th running of the Daytona 200.
With three Hondas starting from the front row, it was easy to imagine one of them might win. Pole-sitter Miguel Duhamel
was going after a record-setting sixth Daytona 200 victory, and he was joined on the first row by American Honda teammate Jake Zemke
, last year's winner, and Erion Racing rider Josh Hayes, the 2006 series champion. Jason DiSalvo's Yamaha, in second, broke up the sea of red.
The first time past the start/finish line, it was Duhamel and Hayes joined by M4 EMGO Suzuki's Michael Barnes going side-by-side, followed by DiSalvo, the Ducati of Larry Pegram
, Welshman Chaz Davies and the Attack Kawasaki's of Steve Rapp and Ben Attard. Zemke got a poor start and ran 10th.
After 15 of the 68 laps, Duhamel was barely holding off Hayes and Barnes. Rapp and Attard were gapped a bit, while Davies and his 2006 R6 were doing a great job leading the factory Yamaha of DiSalvo. Five laps later, Rapp had worked his way past Barnes and Hayes to gain second place.
Then things took a bizarre turn. Inexplicably, the factory Honda CBR600RRs of Duhamel and Zemke both apparently ran out of fuel a long way away from the pits. It was determined after the race the pair of CBRs suffered a peculiar fuel pump failure, as Duhamel related that his bike still had fuel in the tank when his bike came to a stop. But if that was the case, then it's begs the question of why then was Josh Hayes coasting into the pits later that lap, seemingly out of fuel and able to return to the race after refueling?
Whatever the case, the entire complexion of the race had changed.
After the shuffle following the first round of pit stops, Steve Rapp
was leading the Daytona 200. Not many would've predicted a Pirelli-shod Kawasaki to be at the top of the scoreboard, but by lap 29 he had a nice gap on DiSalvo, Davies and teammate Attard. Barnes had fallen to fifth, a spot up on Hayes.
On lap 43, Rapp pulled into the fits for his final stop, eventually emerging from that round of pitwork nearly 20 seconds in the lead. With 19 laps to go, Rapp was followed by Attard, Hayes, Davies, Barnes and DiSalvo, now 30 seconds behind the leader. With 13 laps remaining, Hayes makes another pit stop for fuel, while Barnes pulls clear of Davies to secure third place.
Up front, former Superbike pilot Rapp went on to an easy victory to take the biggest win of his career.
"The bike was fast, the tires were good, and the team pulled out some great pit stops," said the Attack Kawasaki winner. "To win at Daytona, that's what you need. It feels great to not only win, but to be able to reward your team for the time they invest in you. It's a way of giving back."
Following Rapp in second place was teammate Attard, making it a one-two finish for Attack and giving Kawasaki its first Daytona victory since 1995. And, in a series dominated by goliath Dunlop, it was underdog rival Pirelli with an amazing sweep of the podium.
Daytona 200 Results:
1. Steve Rapp (Kawasaki)
2. Ben Attard (Kawasaki)
3. Michael Barnes (Suzuki)
4. Chaz Davies (Yamaha)
5. Jason Disalvo (Yamaha)
6. Josh Hayes (Honda)
7. Pascal Picotte (Suzuki)
8. Joshua Day (Yamaha)
9. Bostjan Pintar (Yamaha)
10. David Anthony (Yamaha)
DNF. Miguel Duhamel (Honda)
DNF. Jake Zemke (Honda)
DNF. Aaron Gobert (Honda)