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AMA To Race At Laguna With MotoGP?

There was some confusion after the DMG announced the schedule for the 2010 AMA Pro Racing series. For on the calendar for the US national Superbike series, there was a gaping hole where Laguna Seca should have been. In previous years, the AMA had shared the weekend with the MotoGP series, providing a necessary time filler for the missing support classes. Without the AMA, the Laguna Seca MotoGP weekend would be a pretty quiet weekend.

The problem, it seems, was just temporary. The leading US racing magazine Roadracing World is reporting that the DMG has reached a deal with Laguna Seca after all, and that the teams are being told to start booking hotel rooms in anticipation of the AMA series running at the Laguna Seca MotoGP weekend on July 25th, 2010.

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End Of An Era: Mat Mladin Retires From Racing

Some names are almost as big as the sport, and when they leave, part of the sport dies too. That is almost certainly true of Mat Mladin's not-so-shock announcement that he will be retiring from motorcycle racing at the end of the 2009 season. Mladin has dominated roadracing in the United States for over 10 years, winning six AMA Superbike titles (and currently on course for a seventh) and 82 races along the way. It took the raw talent of Ben Spies on equal machinery to take titles away from the Australian, Spies beating Mladin to three championships, but that was no easy feat. Spies won the 2007 AMA Superbike championship by a single point, and the 2008 championship after some controversial scrutineering decisions saw Mladin disqualified for an illegal crankshaft after Virginia International Raceway round, despite Mladin and Spies' bikes being ostensibly identical. After Spies moved to World Superbikes, Mladin once again became the biggest name in the AMA, and his retirement leaves a gaping hole in the series.

The reasons for Mladin's retirement are varied, but there can be no doubt that a large part of his decision is political. Mladin has been at war with the Daytona Motorsports Group, the entity that took over the running of the AMA series early in 2008, over their decisions on the direction of motorcycle racing in the US. Some of Mladin's objections centered around the bikes to be raced, but Mladin has always been one of the strongest advocates of safety in American motorcycle racing, and Mladin was particularly caustic about the safety aspects of the AMA Pro racing program. The decision to add Heartland Park Topeka and New Jersey Motorsports Park to the calendar, added to the statements made by DMG boss Roger Edmondson about the need to race in the rain at some venues Mladin and a number of other riders consider to be treacherous were too much for Mladin to stomach.

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Flat Track at Daytona

 

I doubt that any form of motor racing, if done with an earnest intent to win, is for the faint of heart. But I’m sure that American Flat Track racing is only for the bold, the brave, the courageous, if the intent be merely to arrive at the first corner in some position other than dead last. I qualify this remark with “American” because my native brand is the only one I’ve finally seen with my own eyes. Though I don’t know, I suspect that anywhere else in the world this type of racing is the same; the first corner of a flat track race is flat out insane.

 

Part of Bike Week at Daytona is the short track event held over two days at the local municipal football stadium. I imagine this is a slightly different animal from the larger, dedicated mile and half mile tracks, where bikes up to 750ccs race. This short track was ridden on 450cc bikes, the style of which most closely resembles MotoX except for the unusual tires.
 

 

Participants are divided up into two main categories, those with red number plates and those with black. Those with red plates are trying to earn national black numbers with results in their lower-class races, and might have a letter that represents their geographic region to distinguish them from another rider with the same number from a different city. The Grand National Champion earns the prestigious Number 1 plate, harkening back to the days of American bike racing when, to win that Grand National Championship, a rider had to perform in several formats. I suggest you watch On Any Sunday for the full story on the heritage of American bike racing if this topic interests you.

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Images from the 2009 American SuperBike Race at Daytona

After 46 consecutive Superbike victories, the combination of Suzuki, Mat Mladin and Ben Spies had more or less removed any suspense about who would stand on the podium and prompted the troubled AMA to hand over rights to its road racing to Daytona Motorsports Group. As the off season crawled toward March, many of us wondered what the final class rules would be and which factories, if any, would show up to race at Daytona. Certain contracts between teams, riders and mechanics were not finalized until the last minute.

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2009 Daytona 200 Images

Fans on the Starting Grid

Part of the Daytona Motorsports Group’s plan to rejuvenate AMA racing is to follow NASCAR’s successful strategy of giving fans greater access to the series’ participants. Before the 200 started, fans were allowed out on the track to see for themselves how steep the banking is, and to wander through the riders and bikes as the start of the race approached.

 

Buell debuts on Front Row

One of the most amazing parts of the weekend was the competitiveness of the Buell 1125R, which Danny Eslick nearly put on pole, less than a tenth of a second behind Ben Bostrom’s race winning Yamaha. In addition to bringing with it a colorful cast of team members, the Buell added a distinctive sound among the smaller, lighter Japanese bikes. Eslick was outstanding, and he fought with seasoned veterans Bostrom and Josh Hayes for the lead until the right side fairing of the Buell came loose just after Eslick had passed the pit entrance, forcing him to complete another lap with the fairing flapping in the wind. Because a radiator was integrally tied to the fairing, the loose piece could not simply be stripped away in a timely fashion, but had to be reattached in the unplanned pit stop. As an AMA official watched, the Buell team tried the old standby of duct tape, then started drilling holes here and there for plastic ties, but still the fairing was clearly not going to stay put. An increasingly frustrated Eslick finally grabbed his own roll of tape and strapped the fairing to the gas tank so he could rejoin the race. But an otherwise admirable performance was for naught as Eslick, who had clawed his way back to thirteenth for the checkered flag, was later disqualified for having passed under the yellow.

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Daytona 200 Update

In the aftermath of last night's chaotic Daytona 200, additional information has become available that seeks to clarify the the scoring snafu and finish order. In a press release issued by the AMA, the sequence of events that led to the 6-lap sprint to the finish are as follows:

The lighting system that illuminated the chicane that leads into NASCAR turn 3 experienced a failure on or about lap 36, which brought out the "safety" (AKA pace) car. During this caution an unnamed rider collided with Graves Yamaha's Tommy Aquino, causing Aquino to go down, which brought out the red flag, idling the field for nearly a half-hour.

After a few warm-up laps behind the safety car, racing resumed only to to go back under caution when M4 Suzuki's Kris Turner went down in the Horseshoe. Racing resumed in earnest on lap 49 and did not go back to yellow for the remainder of the race.

""I was eighth (during the caution), then I was fourth," DiSalvo said at the post-race press conference. "I'm not 100 percent on the procedures. I think they need a pamphlet to explain it. I was thinking to myself, 'If I was in the stands right now, I wouldn't have a clue who was where.' "

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Daytona 200 Results -- Dazed And Confused

On a beautiful spring night in Florida, the largest crowd to attend a Daytona 200 in recent memory left the speedway knowing that Ben Bostrom had won the spring classic, but weren't really sure exactly how he'd pulled it off. They weren't alone. Bostrom himself was somewhat confused about the way events played out.

37 laps into the scheduled 57 lap race, Bostrom's Graves Yamaha teammate Josh Hayes had pulled out to a 5 second lead and looked to be well on his way to erasing the bitter memory of last year's race disqualification that robbed him of his 1st 200 win. 

Then, Tommy Aquino went down in the chicane as the apparent end result of a lighting snafu which had brought out the pace car. The race was subsequently red-flagged which left 70-plus racers cooling ther heels on pit road for approximately 30 minutes.

By now, readers not familiar with the 200 are probably wondering: Pace car? The Daytona 200 is an odd race, even by US standards. The distance is over 3 times as long as a typical race, necessitating multiple pit stops and when there is a mishap prompting a yellow or red flag situation, racers are supposed to gather behind the pace car, which, theoretically keeps the bikes in order. Unfortunately, theory doesn't always result in successful practice and there have been incidents in the past where racers have been denied their proper position when racing resumes.

On the restart, after a 30 minute delay, the order was Josh Hayes, Bostrom, Martin Cardenas, Jason DiSalvo and Jake Zemke. A couple of crashes and pace car deployments later, Bostrom pits, apparently losing almost a full lap in the process. Still on track, the pace car waves everybody by and they all take off at top speed. But when Bostrum comes up behind the pace car he is held until the rest of the pack catches back up.

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American Superbike -- Daytona Results

Yoshimura Suzuki's Mat Mladin won the inaugural American Superbike race today at Daytona International Speedway. So what, you say, won't Mladin win them all  this year now that Ben Spies has moved on to World Superbikes? Besides, those bikes they're riding aren't really superbikes, are they? You'd be wrong if you looked at the spec sheet and the finishing order and thought the race was boring.  It's true that Mladin took over on the 7th lap and  won by over a second but the actual racing was a lot more entertaining than that.

Mladin, Corona Honda's Neil Hodgson and  Foremost Ducati's Larry Pegram all led in the early stages of the race and Mladin's teammate Tommy Hayden overcame a poor start that he attributed to an unfamiliar starting procedure to join a lead pack that saw numerous overtaking manuevers behind the leader. Mladin's grasp on the top step on the podium was in peril until he employed a backmarker to gain a bit of breathing room very late in the contest. Hodgson pipped Hayden at the line in a thrilling finish for second place by .001 second when Hayden lost speed after being  balked in the chicane on the last lap. Pegram dropped back to a distant but comfortable fourth when an electrical problem forced him to switch off his 1098's traction control.

Blake Young took fifth place in his debut performance for Yosimura Suzuki after a nearly race-long battle with Graves Yamaha's Ben Bostrom. Bostrom's teammate, Josh Hayes, dropped back after an off-track excursion in the horseshoe. Hayes was sandwiched by Jordan Suzuki teammates Aaron Yates and Geoff May.

While it may be true that the hardware isn't state of the art and the finishing order looks like the same old, the point of racing is close battles and exciting finishes. Today's race delivered those requirements in spades and the series only looks to get better as the season progresses.

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