Round 2 Race Report: AMA Pro Daytona SportBike, Race 1

Team Latus Motors Racing’s Jason DiSalvo took his second consecutive 2011 AMA Pro Daytona SportBike win Saturday, but for many fans and spectators, the hero of the twenty-two laps was second-place finisher Jake Holden.

Holden, who began the 2011 season with an East Coast-based team, showed up at Infineon Raceway’s Round 2 under the Jake Holden Racing banner, a grassroots-funded effort supported mainly by friends, family, and small, individual sponsors.

“We’re little under-funded,” said Holden, after taking Friday’s provisional pole, “but I’ve got some great friends and sponsors. I’m living a dream. I get emotional thinking about how everyone is helping.”

Race fans shared in that emotion Saturday, as Holden started the race by putting an immediate pass on then-second Danny Eslick (GEICO Powersports RMR Suzuki) and setting out after DiSalvo, refusing to be shaken from the latter’s rear wheel as the two built a steadily increasing gap on the rest of the field. While a ten-bike freight train snaked through the turns behind them, Holden repeatedly tried the inside and outside of DiSalvo’s every turn, until a mistake sent him into the grass at Turn 4 with more than half the race remaining.

Having stayed upright, Holden blended back into the field in seventh and began methodically picking off the riders ahead, first dispatching GP Bike Parts Racing’s Cameron Beaubier and Vesrah Suzuki’s Cory West, then Y.E.S./Pat Clark/Graves Motorsports’ Tommy Aquino, and Celtic Racing/Fast by Ferracci’s PJ Jacobsen. The next in line-Danny Eslick-put up significantly more of a fight, but in the end was left in the dust as Holden dove around the outside and put three bike-lengths on the GEICO rider before Eslick had a chance to react.

DiSalvo, at this point, was a full eight seconds ahead of second place, but with Holden laying down blazingly quick laps and eleven laps still remaining, the math pointed to the possibility of a dramatic last few laps.

As the laps ticked down, so too did the gap under Holden’s unrelenting assault. DiSalvo’s lead narrowed from eight seconds to just a few tenths over four seconds in a handful of laps, but there DiSalvo was able to stop Holden’s charge, ramping up his own laptimes enough to maintain the cushion. Though Holden eventually had to cede to the value of a second-place finish vs. throwing it all away, the hard riding had carried the pair a whopping 15.6 seconds ahead of third-place Eslick by the finish.

Behind Eslick, the top ten crossed in the following order: Jacobsen, Aquino, West, Beaubier, Paul Allison (Triple Crown Industries), Tyler Odom (Don Odom Racing), Tyler O’Hara (GP Bike Parts Racing). For full results, click here.

Eslick, 3rd: “I got a good launch right from the get-go and settled into second, then Jake went by. I had those guys to chase for the first few laps … but that was a tough race; once those guys took off, it was pretty much uneventful. Hats off to those guys, they rode a heck of a race. I think I might need a twelve-gauge with a three-and-a-half-inch magnum to catch these ducks.”

Holden, 2nd: [Going off-track] was just a stupid mistake. I got a little too close to Jason trying to settle in with him maybe get a rhythm going; got too close and ran wide. I got back on, but by that point I was pretty pissed off at myself because my crew working so hard to get this program together and I didn’t want to let them down. So I just put my head down and went, didn’t really pay attention to anything. [Finishing second] is great; I mean, we would have liked to win, but second place is good, and I think it’s well-deserved for our team. I’m just a small piece of this puzzle; everybody from management to friends from the Northwest have helped out and made this successful.”

DiSalvo, 1st: “At the beginning I felt like we were running a pretty good pace…. I was just trying to run a pace I could run for 22 laps. I think I know the lap that Jake ran off, because I could hear his bike behind me-it got real loud, and then it went away. Once that happened, that reflected immediately on my pit board, so knew I had a big gap. I kind of put my head down for a couple laps, extended it out to six seconds, then let up for a little bit and just started managing the gap that we had. Then all of a sudden it started to shrink, rather quickly. I looked over and saw Jake was in second … all I knew is that I needed to ride harder. I put my head down and was able to keep Jake at bay and keep the gap pretty solid, but I definitely think tomorrow’s going to be a dog fight again.”

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