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Daytona: Season opener preview, schedule

Duhamel hoping to match Mr. Daytona's record 63rd Daytona 200 by Arai moving to Saturday PICKERINGTON, Ohio (Feb. 20, 2004) -- In 1991 Miguel Duhamel pulled off the rare achievement of winning the first Daytona 200 in which he competed. On ...

Duhamel hoping to match Mr. Daytona's record
63rd Daytona 200 by Arai moving to Saturday

PICKERINGTON, Ohio (Feb. 20, 2004) -- In 1991 Miguel Duhamel pulled off the rare achievement of winning the first Daytona 200 in which he competed. On Saturday, March 6, Duhamel will try to pull off an even bigger feat -- the longtime Honda ace will try to win the 63rd Daytona 200 by Arai matching the record of five wins held by Mr. Daytona himself, Scott Russell. This year the March Classic will break with tradition and run on Saturday at Daytona International Speedway's 3.56-mile road course before a nationally-televised audience. The race is also the opening round of the 2004 AMA Chevrolet Superbike Championship.

Duhamel, 35, is the defending winner of the Daytona 200 and comes into this year's race a strong favorite. In spite of the fact that if Duhamel wins he would become the second oldest winner in the history of the storied race (Dick Mann won in 1971 at 36) one needs only to look to Duhamel's uncanny skills at using the famous Daytona draft to his advantage to understand his excellent chances at winning this year. The 15-year AMA Pro Racing veteran also has the advantage of the potent new Honda CBR1000RR, a motorcycle that has shown awesome speed in pre-season tests. Many considered the biggest threat to keep Duhamel from winning his fifth Daytona 200 coming from his own camp. Honda riders Ben Bostrom and Jake Zemke have also proven fast on the new Honda Superbike.

"I've been coming to Daytona for a lot of years," said Duhamel, whose father was a leading AMA competitor in the 1960s and '70s. "It really means a lot to me to be able to win, especially Daytona, because you've got to be realistic, I've only got a few years of racing left in me. To have a chance to match the (Daytona) 200 win record is a great honor to me, but you have to have a lot of luck on your side to be able to do it. If you can hang on and be in the lead pack on the final lap anything can happen."

Duhamel previously won the race in 1991, 1996, 1999 and 2003.

Ben Bostrom is hoping to win his first AMA Superbike since returning to AMA competition last year after a successful three-year run in World Superbike. If Bostrom does earn a win in the series this season he will break the spate of bad luck that plagued returning World Superbike stars in the past such as Fred Merkel, Doug Polen, John Kocinski and even the Daytona 200 all-time wins leader Scott Russell. None of those riders were able to win an AMA Superbike race after returning home from triumphant World Superbike careers.

Zemke will be making his debut in the 200 and hopes to follow in Duhamel's footsteps to win in his first outing. Honda is trying to become the first manufacturer to win the Daytona 200 three times straight since the race entered the Superbike era in 1985. Stunningly, the team swept the podium in the 200 last year with Duhamel, Bostrom and Kurtis Roberts going one-two-three, respectively. Roberts has left the AMA Superbike Championship to pursue glory in MotoGP.

Another rider to watch this year is four-time and defending AMA Superbike Champion Mat Mladin. The Aussie rider is a two-time Daytona 200 winner and can never be counted out. Suzuki's GSX-R1000 proved to be the class of the series last year forcing Honda and Ducati to seriously step up their efforts in 2004. Georgian Aaron Yates will also ride a factory Yoshimura Suzuki alongside Mladin at Daytona. Yates proved he knows how to win at the Speedway. In 2001 he took victory in the Supersport final. Now he's hoping to earn his first win in the 200.

Ducati is pinning its hopes on Eric Bostrom. The Italian maker has raced in the Daytona 200 since 1966 and has yet to taste victory. The best result for Ducati was a trio of runner-up finishes. Doug Polen, Troy Corser and Carl Fogarty each finished second in the Daytona 200 on Ducatis in the early-to-mid-1990s. Ducati Corse head Paolo Ciabatti admitted his company covets a win in the 200.

"There are a few classic events in motorcycle racing that every manufacturer would like to win," Ciabatti said. "Races like Daytona, Suzuka and Bol d'Or. These races in themselves represent more than the series they are part of and take on almost mythic importance for a company to win at least once in its history."

Loyal followers of Team Green will look to Attack Kawasaki's Josh Hayes to uphold Kawasaki's honors in the 200. Hayes will ride a factory-supported ZX-10R. "Hey, we're the underdog team and I like that," Hayes says on his 200 hopes. "I think I can at least be very consistent in the race. Hopefully we'll catch a little luck and you never know." Hayes hopes to become the first non-factory rider to win the Daytona 200 since Florida's own John Ashmead pulled off that major accomplishment in 1989.

A big question coming into this year's Daytona 200 is whether or not Yamaha will field a factory machine in the 200. Yamaha has won more Daytona 200 races (18) than any other manufacturer, but it hasn't fielded a team since the 2002 race. There were no plans to race in the 200 at all for Yamaha before the Daytona tire tests when the team was pleasantly surprised to find that its YZF-R1 AMA Superstock bike was able to turn Superbike competitive lap times. The nearly stock R1s were so impressive it led Yamaha's Jamie Hacking to proclaim "I can win the 200 with this bike." At least one popular road racing website has reported that Yamaha will race in 2004, although there has been no formal announcement as yet from Yamaha.

The 63rd Daytona 200 by Arai will be shown live on Speed Channel starting at 1:30 p.m. Eastern on Saturday, March 6, with the pre-race show.

For additional information on this year's Bike Week races contact Daytona International Speedway at (386) 253-7223 or visit www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com on the internet.

For immediate post-race results, points, live transponder scoring, in-depth series and rider information, regular columnists and much more, log onto www.USSuperbike.com, the official website of the AMA Chevrolet Superbike Championship.

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS

Wednesday, March 3
8:00 a.m. - 8:40 a.m. - Pro Honda Oils Supersport Practice
8:50 a.m. - 9:30 a.m. - AMA Repsol Superstock Practice
9:40 a.m. - 10:10 a.m. - BMW BoxerCup Practice
10:20 a.m. - 11:00 a.m. - Lockhart Phillips USA Formula Xtreme Practice
11:10 a.m. - 12:10 p.m. - Chevrolet Superbike Practice
1:00 p.m. - 1:30 p.m. - AMA Repsol Superstock Qualifying, Group 1
1:40 p.m. - 2:10 p.m. - AMA Repsol Superstock Qualifying, Group 2
2:20 p.m. - 2:50 p.m. - Lockhart Phillips USA Formula Xtreme Qualifying, Group 1
3:00 p.m. - 3:30 p.m. - Lockhart Phillips USA Formula Xtreme Qualifying, Group 2
3:40 p.m. - 4:20 p.m. - Chevrolet Superbike Qualifying, Group 1
4:30 p.m. - 5:10 p.m. - Chevrolet Superbike Qualifying, Group 2
5:20 p.m. - 5:50 p.m. - BMW BoxerCup Qualifying

Thursday, March 4
8:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m. - Practice: 1. Pro Honda Oils Supersport; 2. BMW BoxerCup; 3. AMA Repsol Superstock; 4. Lockhart Phillips USA Formula Xtreme
10:10 a.m. - 11:00 a.m. - Chevrolet Superbike Practice
11:10 a.m. - 11:40 a.m. - Pro Honda Oils Supersport Qualifying, Group 1
11:50 a.m. - 12:20 - Pro Honda Oils Supersport Qualifying, Group 2
1:15 p.m. - 1:45 p.m. - BMW BoxerCup Qualifying
1:55 p.m. - 2:30 p.m. - Chevrolet Superbike Qualifying, Group 1
2:40 p.m. - 3:15 p.m. - Chevrolet Superbike Qualifying, Group 2

FINAL EVENTS
3:40 p.m. - Lockhart Phillips USA Formula Xtreme Final (15 laps, 80k)
4:40 p.m. - AMA Repsol Superstock Final (12 laps, 80k)

Saturday, March 6
9:00 a.m. - 10:15 a.m. - Practice: 1. Pro Honda Oils Supersport; 2. BMW BoxerCup; 3. Chevrolet Superbike

FINAL EVENTS
10:30 a.m. - Pro Honda Oils Supersport presented by Shoei Helmets Final (18 laps, 103k)
11:50 a.m. - BMW BoxerCup Final (13 laps, 70k)
1:30 p.m. - Opening Ceremony and Pole Award Presentation
1:45 p.m. - Sighting Lap for the Daytona 200
2:00 p.m. - Chevrolet Superbike Championship presented by Parts Unlimited Final - 63rd Daytona 200 by Arai (57 Laps)

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About this article
Series AMA
Drivers Miguel Duhamel , Jamie Hacking , Scott Russell , Aaron Yates , Eric Bostrom , Jake Zemke , Carl Fogarty , Fred Merkel , Ben Bostrom