AMA Pro Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson Series title contenders looking to make moves at Mid-Ohio
NEWS July 18, 2014
Brian J Nelson Photo
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 18, 2014) - The opening half of the 2014 AMA Pro Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson Series has featured four different winners in as many races. And now with four races to go, the championship picture is starting to come into focus as AMA Pro Road Racing arrives at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for the Buckeye SuperBike Weekend.
2010 AMA Pro Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson Series champ Danny Eslick on the No. 69 Ruthless Racing Harley-Davidson XR1200 has assumed the points lead after claiming his first victory of the season last Saturday at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
After getting caught up in the last-lap shuffle in the series opener at Daytona International Speedway - where he ended up crossing the line in sixth - the hard-charging Oklahoman has finished no lower than second.
He actually hit the stripe second again last weekend after registering a measured ride to the win, well aware that the disappearing Steve Rapp and his No. 1 Suburban Motors Harley-Davidson XR1200 had been hit with a ten-second penalty for jumping the start.
Eslick is looking to score a clear victory this weekend and open up a commanding championship lead heading into the season's final three races.
"I think everybody expected me to just come in and win and it just shows that these guys have been busting their butts and riding these Harleys really hard,” Eslick said. “They're definitely not the easiest bikes to get around a racetrack. When you get up to the pace Steve and some of these other guys are going, it makes it pretty tough. It's a lot of fun. It's not the way I wanted to win it - by penalty - but a 'W' is a 'W', and we need the points. We'll definitely take the money and move on to Mid-Ohio."
Rapp, meanwhile, has found his form in terms of sheer pace, but his odds of claiming a repeat championship are growing ever longer. Last week's penalty resulted in a ten-point swing and he no longer controls his own destiny. Currently fifth and trailing Eslick by 38 points, even if Rapp sweeps the last four races of the season, he'll need Eslick to average worse than third in order to successfully repeat.
Despite the mistakes and misfortune that have left him in such a precarious championship position, Rapp remains the man to beat on any given weekend, as evidenced by his breakaway speed at the most recent two rounds. The Californian won at Mid-Ohio last season, but it came following a tight fight for the win in contrast to his more common jailbreak-style escapes at the front.
"I just wanted to get a good start and try to build up a lead if I could and it looked like everything was going as planned," Rapp said of his Monterey runner-up performance. "I didn't know the penalty was for me. I wasn't really aware of what was going on, I was riding as if there was nothing going on. The bike was good and the tires felt great. Everything felt pretty good overall."
Even though there have been four winners in four races, Kyle Wyman, pilot of the No. 33 KWR/Millennium Technologies Harley-Davidson XR1200, is the only man besides Rapp to have taken the checkered flag first this season. His Daytona disqualification handed the season-opening victory over to Tyler O'Hara on the No. 29 Josh Chisum Racing/Bartels Harley-Davidson XR1200.
Wyman successfully bounced back to win at Road America, but crashed out the following weekend at Barber Motorsports Park. He continued his rollercoaster ride of a 2014 season by rebounding to claim the final spot on the box last weekend.
Wyman is hoping to end that up-and-down trend by backing up one strong race with another - this time at the closest thing he has to a home track on the tour.
"Mid-Ohio is actually the closest AMA track to my home in New York," Wyman said. "I’m looking forward to some better track familiarity and this short week to rest my knee. I feel I will be 100 percent by Saturday morning and ready to make a charge."
O'Hara, meanwhile, is hoping to reclaim the championship lead he had maintained all season until being displaced by Eslick last weekend California.
The perennial title contender, who is now second in the points and eleven back of first, has been uncharacteristically quiet as of late, stringing together three consecutive fourth place results. While he's been both quick and consistent, he'll be plenty motivated to get back on the box this weekend at Mid-Ohio.
Ben Carlson on the No. 45 Suburban Motors Harley-Davidson XR1200 and Gage McAllister aboard the No. 51 Folsom Harley-Davidson XR1200 remain championship dark horses, currently ranked third and fourth, respectively.
With a fifth for Carlson and a seventh for McAllister, the two suffered their worst races of the season last weekend in Monterey. Fortunately, they won't have to stew long with an opportunity for redemption rapidly upon them.
Meanwhile, up-and-comers Nick Hansen, riding the No. 97 Aerostar Global Suburban Motors Harley-Davidson XR1200, and Hayden Schultz on the No. 59 Chili Pepper Racing Harley-Davidson XR1200 are just behind Wyman in the order in seventh and eighth, respectively.
"Steve and Danny pulled away from our group, but we kept passing and re-passing each other,” Schultz said. “I could pass in a few corners, but just couldn’t make them stick for a whole lap. On the last lap, I pushed hard into the last turn, and tried to get a good drive, but I got kicked out of the seat and lost some time on the guy ahead of me."
Ryan Kerr on the No. 28 Ryan Kerr Racing XR1200, the last man in the championship top ten, is excited about the prospects of performing in front of his home crowd this weekend. Hailing from nearby Johnstown, Ohio, Kerr is coming off an excellent sixth place run, which equaled his best result of 2014.
"The weekend was full of ups and downs but overall it was good,” Kerr said. “The race was a battle and I am happy with my sixth-place finish and even more thrilled with my lap times. My times prove that I can ride with the leaders and become a top competitor in this series.
The AMA Pro Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson Series will first take to the track on Saturday at 10:20 a.m. local time (7:20 a.m. PT) for their opening practice. The 11-lap race will get underway at 12:15 p.m. Sunday afternoon (9:15 a.m. PT).
How to Watch
FansChoice.tv is the official home for live streaming coverage of AMA Pro Road Racing and AMA Pro Flat Track events in 2014. The site also provides coverage of IMSA's development and single-make series, and NASCAR's touring and weekly series.
About AMA Pro Road Racing:
AMA Pro Road Racing is the premier motorcycle road racing series in North America and is universally regarded as one of the most competitive road racing organizations in the world. The series is comprised of four production-based classes: AMA Pro SuperBike, AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike, AMA Pro SuperSport and the AMA Pro Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson Series. Learn more about AMA Pro Road Racing at www.amaproracing.com/rr/.
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