Photography by Tim White
This was the kind of race for which the Daytona Motorsports Group has prayed. A virtual unknown 19-year-old, Joey Pascarella, riding for Perry Melneciuk’s Project 1 Atlanta/March of Dimes team, won the event by .048 second over last year’s winner, Jason DiSalvo. This was Pascarella’s third Daytona SportBike race start, and he had not ridden or tested the bike before Wednesday’s first practice.
“I just rode my own race and stayed out front,” said Pascarella, who entered the chicane first on the last lap. “I got a draft on a lapper, and I was able to bring it home with a win.”
Early in the race, DiSalvo thought he heard threatening noises from his Latus Motors Racing Triumph 675R and pitted on lap 14 for a look-see. When there was no problem, DiSalvo rode all-out, gaining on Pascarella (who would lead 41 laps) at 1.2 seconds a lap. By Lap 55, after the second gas stop, Pascarella led by less than one second. With two laps to go, DiSalvo was closing fast. It was so close.
Here is irony: DiSalvo’s bike and leathers had been done in blue-and-white 1960s’ Triumph team colors to honor the late Gary Nixon, who won at Daytona in 1967 on a 500cc Triumph Twin. When I once asked Nixon whether he ever heard a certain sound on the track, he replied, “I don’t hear nothin’, man. I always wear earplugs.”
DiSalvo later commented, “I thoroughly chastised myself for making a silly move like that. You ride it until it stops. You don’t think you hear a noise and pull in.”
Both Pascarella’s and DiSalvo’s teams are private, grass-roots efforts, not thinly disguised factory R&D backed by long rows of dyno cells. Melneciuk started his team as a Chuck Graves offshoot early in 2010, but the cordiality didn’t last. Melneciuk himself is a former 250cc GP racer who clearly didn’t quietly retire to an insurance job. The Project 1 bike is said to have come from eBay, and a borrowed engine was built up for the race. DiSalvo’s builder is Ronnie Saner, who seems able to make any kind of engine fast—watercraft, snowmobile, motorcycle, two-stroke or four-stroke. Sponsor George Latus just seems to like racing—permanently.
I did some numbers to better understand how a 675 Triumph Triple, with a big, old stroke 9.8mm longer than the Project 1 Yamaha R6’s 42.5mm, could make competitive power. If both engines rev to equal levels of piston acceleration, 16,000 rpm by the Yamaha would translate to 14,400 for the Triumph. If they breathed and burned equally well at those revs, they’d both make close to 140 peak horsepower. Looks like Saner’s done some interesting work. Might be a story there.
After 57 laps of the 3.51-mile Long Course (which includes both east and west bankings, as well as the infield), the finish order was Pascarella, DiSalvo, Beaubier, Cardenas and Dane Westby.
The hard thing about being down in the grass roots is that you have to pay your own bills. No team rental meeting you at the airport. No Mr. Wallet taking care of dinner.
Pascarella said, “I don’t know what we’re doing for the rest of the season, but hopefully the team and I can keep going.”