Daytona 200: Head Scratching—By Kevin Cameron

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Victory Circle: Daytona International Speedway

The 70th running of the Daytona 200 was such an alternation of delays and sudden mishaps that it left the onlooker exhausted. The race started and ran several laps beyond the first gas stop before there was a red flag as Danny Eslick’s front end washed out to the left out of NASCAR Turn 4. Man and motorcycle slid a dramatic distance. Dunlop personnel later told the pressroom that they had examined this tire very thoroughly and found nothing wrong with it. Eslick himself commented that, “It was tuckin’ and tuckin,’” meaning that it was losing grip.

Okay, history tells us tire manufacturers have to be very cagey about their reputations. Some front tires were found to have symptoms of overheating, which means either blistering (rubber expands from vaporization of constituents of the rubber compound, causing vibration that the rider feels) or chunking (separation of pieces of tread at its bond to the fabric casing).

Whatever the situation, AMA Pro Racing decided to stop the race, which is a serious matter. Then it was announced that every machine was to be fitted with a “safety tire” or backup, which Dunlop had brought, and run the remainder of the event as a 15-lap sprint.

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Team Cycle World Attack Performance Kawasaki

It took a long time to accomplish these changes, and there was a second incident and red flag at the restart, which added more to the woes of management. The total delay was very long and had everyone remembering the notorious experimental night runnings of the 200. SPEED TV had to drop its 200 broadcast and switch to qualifying for a NASCAR truck race.

When the racing resumed, a Supersport-like group of eight riders formed at the front, as it had in the first 28 laps of the event. The announcers greeted this as excitement, but experienced persons also felt some apprehension as riders bobbed and weaved for position at presumed 180-mph speeds (as the radar-gun people had earlier informed us). On the last dash to start/finish, the maneuvering continued, and as Jason DiSalvo achieved a storybook win on a Latus Motors Racing Ducati 848, whose engine had been heroically changed during the delays, a rider in the group apparently ran his brake lever into another machine, his front tire billowed smoke, and two machines went flipping and spinning. One ran diagonally across the path of a following rider and slammed itself into junk against the outside retaining wall, and the other went into the infield. Thankfully, both riders arose Lazarus-like from our collective fears and walked. It was a true breathless moment.

High-speed bobbing and weaving by drivers in armored boxes is one thing, but this on motorcycles is another. Adult persons do not plan on being lucky, so you can be sure this affair will provoke a lot of thought and discussion on the part of race management.