Written by Dan Evon, Courtesy of AllAboutBikes.com
The final round of the AMA Pro Racing Championship kicked off on a near perfect day. It was near 90 degrees in Birmingham, and a nice breeze was blowing across the Barber Motorsports track.
Danny Eslick, Josh Herrin, and Martin Cardenas were all in the hunt for the top of the podium, but the DSB Championship was only going to be handed to one of them at the end of the weekend.
Eslick had the lead, and the momentum heading into Barber, but with only a dozen points separating himself from Cardenas and Herrin, the title was up for grabs.
Day 1 at Barber Motorsports Park
Free Practice – Daytona Sportbike
Fans were still trickling in when the Daytona Sportbike riders took to the track for the first free practice session at noon. Eslick had an 11 point lead going into the championship event, but it was Josh Herrin who made the opening statement.
Herrin set the fastest lap during the opening free practice session, beating out his rival by .6 seconds. Tommy Aquino was second fastest for the day, followed by Martin Cardenas and Eslick.
It took the Daytona Sportbike riders nearly twenty minutes to break through the 1’30 barrier, but in the end, the top five riders all finished in the high 1’29′s.
Qualifying – Daytona Sportbike
With rain expected on Saturday, Friday’s provisional pole could be worth a bonus point. Herrin and Cardenas, who are both just a handful of points away from the top spot, need to make every point count if they want to surpass Eslick.
Before the race, Herrin got some advice from his former teammate, and current Superbike title contender, Josh Hayes.
“Today was really good,” Herrin said after putting in a lap of 1:28.578. “This morning we went out and Hayes talked to me yesterday and kinda gave me a little bit of advice. He said, ‘Try to push your limits in practice and qualifying, see what you can. Use that for the race, instead of trying to find the limits in the race.’ It’s something I never really thought about before. I just went out and did whatever I needed to do.”
The advice paid off as Herrin was able to put in the fastest time of the day and claim the provisional pole. Of course, it didn’t hurt that season leader Danny Eslick missed most of the session after a crash. Eslick was able to get back on his bike, however, and put in a few good laps that were good enough to claim third place behind Clinton Seller.
“It felt good to just crash in practice once, not the race.” Eslick said. “I think we’re just going to go out and do our thing. Maybe have a little bit of strategy to it, but just try to have the least amount of stress as we can or just go out and have fun. Not really think about the points. Just go racing.”
Eslick may be acting nonchalantly about the upcoming race, but he did aknowledge the fact that everyone is going to be going all out for race wins.
“It’ll be a real good dogfight,” Eslick said.
Day 2 at Barber Motorsports Park
2nd Qualifying – Daytona Sportbike
Josh Herrin and Danny Eslick continued to battle at the top of the time sheets. Herrin showed the pace today during the second qualifying session, but only managed to best Eslick by .15 seconds. Herrin will have the advantage of the pole position going into tomorrow’s race, but he’ll still have to find 12 more points if he wants to take the championship.
Those 12 points could come by the way of Martin Cardenas. If Cardenas can knock Eslick down a step or two on the podium, he could give Herrin enough breathing room for the Championship win. Of course, Cardenas isn’t exactly shooting for second place.
Herrin, Eslick, and Cardenas will start from the top three spots on the grid tomorrow, but there is no telling how the podium will be arranged at the end of the first race. Especially since Clinton Seller and Tommy Aquino showed that they have the speed to keep pace today with the top three.
For Eslick, two finishes in first or second place this weekend will cement his victory for the AMA Daytona Sportbike championship. For Cardenas and Herrin, they’ll be fighting for race wins, but will also need someone to find their way in front of Eslick, and keep him off the podium.
Race 1 – Daytona Sportbike
Going into the first race of the weekend, the talk around the track was all about Danny Eslick and Josh Herrin. The two had been trading the first and second place spots for the past few events, and if anyone was going to separate themselves from the rest of the pack it would be one of the top two riders.
But after the first Daytona Sportbike race, one thing was for sure. You should never forget about Martin Cardenas. For that matter, you should never forget about Clinton Seller.
Cardenas, who has the most wins in the Daytona Sportbike series, rode a flawless race from start to finish take the race win and the series lead at Barber Motorsports park. Cardenas led for 21 laps, and only Seller was able to challenge him at the finish line.
“I got a good start, and just wanted to race my own race,” Cardenas said. “I tried to stay out in front the whole race to get the bonus points.”
The strategy worked for Cardenas, who not only picked up big points for the race win, but also the bonus point for leading the most laps, giving Cardenas a huge haul of 31 points. And with a winner take all race coming up tomorrow afternoon, those bonus points may very well mean the difference between a series championship, and a runner up finish.
Clinton Seller took the second place finish ahead of Josh Herrin. While the former season leader, Danny Eslick, finished fifth behind Westby. Race 1 was a perfect setup for the final race of an unbelievable exciting season.
The 12 points that separated the top three riders going into this weekend was cut down to 9, with Cardenas jumping up into first place, just 3 points head of Eslick.
Cardenas is no longer playing catch-up, but he knows that the pressure isn’t off of him yet.
“Maybe there is less pressure,” Cardenas said. “But these guys are great riders, and I can’t make any mistakes.”
Can Eslick reclaim the top spot before the season’s over? Can Cardenas, who has been hit or miss this season, keep his bike in the top three? Race two of the Daytona Sportbike series at Barber Motorsports Park would have the answers.
Day 3 at Barber Motorsports Park
Warm-Up – Daytona Sportbike
There is just one race left to decide the AMA Daytona Sportbike championship, and dark skies threaten to make it a wet one. The warm up session was rain free, but a morning storm left the track slick, and made the Daytona Sportbike riders move slowly around the track.
Dane Westby was the only rider to get below 1’39, and he nearly broke through the 1’38 plane with a 1’38.069 time, more than a second faster than Danny Eslick.
But Westby, Eslick, and the rest of the DSB Paddock weren’t going for speed this morning. They were making decisions about tires. Wet, dry, slick. The choice could decide the race winner and it could decide the AMA Daytona Sportbike Champion.
There are just 3 points separating the top two riders, and 9 separating the top 3. Whoever wins the second race of the DSB at Barber, will likely be crowned the champion.
After 17 races, it all comes down to this. This afternoon it will be winner take all for the Daytona Sportbike Championship.
Race 2 – Daytona Sportbike
With the AMA Daytona Sportbike title on the line, Martin Cardenas, Danny Eslick, and Josh Herrin set out on a winner take all race. Cardenas had the lead heading into the final race of the Daytona Sportbike season, but Eslick and Herrin both had the opportunity to take the 2010 championship win.
The Sportbike riders took the track after a crash filled Supersport race that saw 6 riders hit the pavement. Crashing was not only prevalent during the final races of the AMA Pro Racing Series, but it was an integral part to every race.
In the Daytona Sportbike series, Clinton Seller, who took second in the first DSB race, got off to a fantastic start to lead the DSB riders around the Barber Motorsports track.
Seller’s Project 1 Atlanta teammate Dane Westby also took a few turns at the top of the pack, but soon, Westby’s hope at a race win, or even a podium finish, were dashed when he hit the pavement.
Luckily, or unfortunately, three other riders would take spills. Josh Herrin, Danny Eslick, and Westby’s Project 1 Atlanta teammate Seller would all hit the pavement. And when Seller’s bike caught fire, the red flag was thrown, and all four riders were allowed back into the race.
“I would really like to thank my Yamaha crew,” Westby said. “They put my bike together in about two seconds.”
But the restart wasn’t exactly what Martin Cardenas wanted. With Eslick and Herrin on the pavement, Cardenas would have been able to cruise to an easy top five finish, and win the championship without worry.
“The red flag equals everybody,” Cardenas said after the race. “And I know these two guys (Herrin and Eslick). I was worried I had to battle with them again.”
On the restart, Cardenas, Herrin, and Eslick were able to break away from the pack. Westby sat back in fourth, giving the championship contenders a chance to battle for the win amongst themselves, and the battle was intense.
Herrin and Eslick butted heads a few times, before Herrin tried to make a pass on the inside, took a bump, and dropped his bike to the pavement.
“If you’re going to be an idiot, I’m going to treat you like an idiot,” Eslick said after the race.
With Herrin out of the race, the AMA Daytona Sportbike Championship would be handed to Cardenas or Eslick. And although Eslick stayed tight with Cardenas for the entirety of the race, he didn’t have enough to pass the M4 Monster Energy Suzuki rider.
I just have to “take it in stride,” Eslick said. “We’ll come back next year and we’ll be swinging.”
Cardenas won 9 races during the AMA Daytona Sportbike season, 6 more than Eslick. But Cardenas was never the favorite to win. A few bad finishes made it difficult for Cardenas to capitalize on his numerous victories.
“I made quite a few mistakes this year,” Cardenas said. “But in the end, I was fortunate that I could win the championship. I am very happy and proud of my team.”