Daytona, FL(March 12th, 2023)
Ever since last years running of the MotoAmerica Daytona 200 there were many questions for the running of the 2023 race. Could this years race be as exciting as last years? Would Brandon Paasch form a stranglehold on Daytona by winning it three years running? Would Josh Herrin finally get a Rolex watch that is now given to the winner and win again after a thirteen year delay? Or will one of the other fifty one riders from sixteen different countries on six different manufacturers grab the top spot on the podium.
During Thursdays provisional qualifying Josh Herrin on the Warhorse HSBK Ducati topped all others with a blistering 1:49.043 to earn the provisional pole. While his time was nearly a second faster than last years pole winning time, this year he was joined by six other riders to best last years’ time. With all the provisional times finally settled, the top twelve riders were set for Fridays ‘Time Attack’. The ‘Time Attack’ is a fifteen minute final qualifying session to determine the final grid for the main race.
With the wind picking up on Friday, everyone was running on the track together looking to get a good draft off another rider to boost their times. The frenetic pace of the shootout put pressure on everyone. Ritchie Escalante on the Vision Wheel ECSTAR Suzuki bailed out of flyer of a potentially pole winning lap for a tire change. Herrin had problems with a pit stop that left him out of position with no one to draft and wound up pushing too hard and running in the grass. Danny Eslick on the TOBC Triumph ran into the grass on the chicane and lost time. But at the end of it all, Herrin would once again capture the pole for this years race.
When the green flag was finally waved, Josh Herrin got the perfect start powering his Ducati Panigale V2 into the lead. Over the next thirty laps the top twelve riders would stay bunched up, with the exception of Cam Petersen oh his Attack Yamaha. Shifting problems would cause him to go a lap down to the leaders as his team straightened things out. On lap thirty three things started to break open. PJ Jacobsen on the Celtic/Tylers Cycle/TSE Racing Yamaha, who qualified second, crashed out in the infield section finishing his day. A couple of laps later Hayden Gillim on the Disrupt Racing Suzuki went down but was able to get back going.
After the second round of pit stops, Herrin and Ritchie Escalante separated themselves from the pack. At one point they built up an eighteen second gap on Josh Hayes on the Squid Hunter Racing Yamaha. The two were racing each other hard with the lead changing back and forth over each lap. As the race was nearing its end with eight laps to go, the pair both dove into turn one. Escalante took a wider line leaving Herrin a gap which Herrin instantly exploited. As Herrin was passing Escalante the two made contact and Escalante went down knocking him out of the race.
At the post-race conference Herrin said “I had been seeing different spots that I could overtake if I needed to. His bike was a missile. That was one of the spots where I thought would be a possibility and would kinda throw him off of his rhythm. With however many laps to go, I just saw an opening and wanted to try it, and as far as I was concerned, I was there, had the line.”
Herrin would continue to press and built up a commanding lead of twenty four seconds. But only a few laps later at the start of the fifty second lap his potentially easy ride to the podium was dashed by a severe crash between Teague Hobbs on his Vision Wheel M4 ECSTAR Suzuki and Edge Racing Yamaha rider Jason Waters that brought out a red flag stopping the race. As per the Daytona 200’s rules any race that is stopped more than three laps but less than fifty three laps, the race will be restarted for a second race and the distance of the second race will be enough to complete the fifty seven laps, but won’t be shorter than ten laps. Because of when the crash happened, there would now be a ten lap sprint race that would actually extend the race from fifty seven laps to sixty two laps. Also the rules state that only riders that had completed seventy five percent of the race would be eligible for the second race. But any penalties received in the first race would be carried over into the second race. Also, all the riders would now be on the same lap.
Herrin was not only reeled back into the field, but he was assessed a penalty for the incident with Escalante. Instead of lining up on the pole for the restart, he was dropped to sixth on the grid. Finally the flag was waved, and the field rocketed off. Over the course of the next ten laps, there was no clear cut favorite. Lead changes were a constant affair. Anytime a rider attempted to build a lead he was quickly reeled in and a new rider would try his chances.
With the white flag waved signaling one lap to go, seven riders crossed the line with any of them having an excellent chance to win. Josh Herrin would later relate his strategy saying “Before the first banking, I went in hot and tried to get at least a couple guys to go by me because I didn’t think I would be able to hold it off leading. That worked out good. That was huge risk number one. Huge risk number two was going into the chicane I chopped everybody up and rolled through the chicane really slow to give Josh (Hayes) about a five to ten bike-length lead because I knew if I was on him I would pass him about halfway through the banking and it would be a double-wide draft of guys behind, and they would get by us.”
Hayes pulled a gap out of the chicane and carried it into the final banking. But that wouldn’t be enough as the field reeled him in as they were getting near the main straight. At that point Herrin utilized the draft to perfection and dove down the track to claim a thrilling win and his first Rolex watch. Following him closely in second place was Josh Hayes, and rounding out the podium was Cam Petersen in third. While the winner of the last two years Brandon Paasch rode a great race and was among the leaders, he had received a twelve second penalty that knocked him down to twelfth place.
Daytona International Speedway: