Kawasaki's Leandro Mercado Wins AMA Pro SuperSport Championship Shootout at Daytona

NEWS October 18, 2009


Kawasaki's Leandro Mercado Wins AMA Pro SuperSport Championship Shootout at Daytona

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (October 18, 2009) - Leandro Mercado (No. 92 Monster Energy Attack Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R) passed Josh Day (No. 4 Team E.S.P. Yamaha YZF-R6) coming out of the final turn on the last lap of Sunday's AMA Pro SuperSport presented by Shoei National Championship Shootout at Daytona International Speedway (DIS) to win the final race of the 2009 AMA Pro Road Racing season by a scant .148 of a second.
 
Mercado, who was presented with the SuperSport National Championship No. 1 plate for the victory in the winner-take-all finale, led the first three circuits of the 12-lap sprint race.  Day passed for the lead in the DIS International Horseshoe on Lap 4 but Mercado stayed close by in second for the rest of the race.  Mercado closed on the final lap in "NASCAR" Turns 3 and 4 and passed Day for the win on the run into the Daytona tri-oval as the checkered flag waved.
 
"It was a really good race," said Mercado, who averaged 113.800 mph in the victory.  "I really had to work hard to catch him.  The only place I could pass him was in the second horseshoe as I was a little faster there. I was afraid to do it because the bike moved a lot and I didn't want to leave a final draft for him.  I didn't have any other opportunities to pass, but on the last lap I had a really good run out of the chicane."
 
Mercado won his third SuperSport race of the year but the 17-year-old Argentinean wasn't able to mount a title bid in the regular season points championship due to visa-related travel issues that forced him to miss two races.  He did win at Road Atlanta and Road America in the SuperSport East division but his third victory, and the National Championship title that goes with it, made up for any regular season disappointment.
 
"In the middle of the year I had a problem with my visa so I couldn't make it to the races," Mercado said. "So to finish the year like this, winning the SuperSport National Championship, is so awesome." 
 
Day, 20, won the 2009 SuperSport East Championship with a dominating performance in the second half of the season that saw him win four consecutive races.  He was also a favorite to capture the National Championship Shootout after winning the pole in Friday qualifying, but the Orlando native wasn't surprised by Mercado's performance.
 
"Like I said after qualifying, I knew Leandro was going to be fast because he got quite a bit of practice on this track in March when he did the Daytona 200," said Day, who was also on the pole for the season-opening SuperSport race at DIS in March. "I was hoping he would try to pass me because it is a tough position to be in at the start/finish line for the checkered flag.  I tried my hardest to put in a fast lap on the white flag lap since he wouldn't come by me.  I really wanted him to lead going into the chicane so I could do the same thing that he did to me.  We ended up with second today and it's a good way to end the season.  At least we were there at the finish."
 
Despite coming up just short in his bid for the National Championship, Day was satisfied with his 2009 season.  Although he crashed out after winning the pole at the Daytona opener, his season later gained momentum at every race.
 
"It's been a great year for us, especially the end of the season," Day said.  "It went better than it did in the beginning.  At least this time at Daytona we were able to finish, unlike March.  I really would have loved to have ended up with the win to finish the season, but I'll take second place."
 
Third place went to young Colombian rider Tomas Puerta (No. 12 LTD Racing Yamaha YZF-R6) who prevailed in a near race-long battle with teammate Joey Pascarella (No. 25 LTD Racing Yamaha YZF-R6).
 
"This is my best finish of the year," said Puerta, who is also 17.  "It was a fun race battling with Joey.  I want to thank my team for giving me such a good bike to race on."
 
Pascarella was the only rider to mix it up with Mercado and Day.  He briefly led early on and officially crossed the line in second place on Lap 4.  He later focused on the fight with Puerta and his fourth-place finish made him the only rider to place in the top five in both SuperSport races at DIS this year.  He finished second in March's season-opening race.
 
"I can't help but be a little disappointed with how the race turned out," Pascarella said.  "I led and was in line for a podium, but it didn't turn out the way I wanted and Tomas passed me there on the banking at the end.  I got an okay start and I rode really conservative the first couple of laps, I don't really know why. Then I got going and caught up to Leandro and Tomas and actually led the race for a little bit. I was pushing real hard in that part of the race and my tire went off some. I was third for most of it and then Tomas got me at the line. Still, it's a good way to end the season but I wanted a little more."
 
SuperSport West Champion Ricky Parker (No. 96 Team Graves Yamaha YZF-R6) finished fifth after qualifying seventh but he never challenged beyond the top five.  He joined fellow SuperSport Champions Day and Mercado as the year's only multiple race winners with his victories coming at Infineon Raceway and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
 
"To tell you the truth, I was kind of on my own until I had an off-track in Turn 1 and almost went down," Parker said.  "I tucked the front and I guess the Lord was looking down on me because I kept it up.  Tyler Odom caught up with me after the off-track and stuck with me, drafting and stuff.  I was hoping I would have one more lap to catch up to Puerta and Pascarella but unfortunately I ended up fifth.  That's okay, I'm happy with it.  The season went pretty well for us.  This was our first time at Daytona International Speedway and I had a great time.  Great day for us, we had fun and it was a great learning experience for next year."
 
Odom, who won last March's season-opening Daytona SuperSport race, finished sixth on his No. 46 Erion Racing Honda CBR600RR.
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