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Daytona Supersport event preview

Yates hoping to become first back-to-back Daytona Supersport winner in seven years. PICKERINGTON, Ohio -- Aaron Yates surprised a lot of people with his come-from-behind victory in the Pro Honda Oils U.S. Supersport Series opener last year at ...

Yates hoping to become first back-to-back Daytona Supersport winner in seven years.

PICKERINGTON, Ohio -- Aaron Yates surprised a lot of people with his come-from-behind victory in the Pro Honda Oils U.S. Supersport Series opener last year at Daytona International Speedway. But even after a convincing win in the one race that had eluded him for years, not many people are talking about Yates winning his second Daytona Supersport race, which takes place on Friday, March 7, before a live national television audience on Speed Channel. Yates will ride a factory Suzuki GSX-R600 against arguably the deepest field of any race during Bike Week. He will face the likes of Honda's Miguel Duhamel, the all-time wins leader in AMA Supersport history; Kawasaki's Eric Bostrom, the 2001 AMA Supersport champ who is making a rare Daytona-only return to the series; and former Daytona winners Kurtis Roberts, Doug Chandler and possibly Michael Barnes, who is still hoping to pick up a last-minute ride to compete in the event.

One of the reasons defending Supersport champ Yates is perhaps being overlooked in pre-race predictions is that while Honda, Yamaha and Kawasaki have all implemented major redesigns to their Supersport bikes, Suzuki has only made refinements to its championship-winning GSX-R600. "A lot of people are talking a lot about how improved the other bikes are this year," Yates said. "I know not many people are saying much about me repeating this year, but that could be to my advantage. Maybe I can sneak up on people like I did at Daytona last year."

However unlikely it is that anyone with the No. 1 on his machine is going to sneak up on anyone, Yates will have a big chore on his hands if he is to become the first back-to-back winner of the Daytona Supersport race since Duhamel did it in 1995-96. Honda, Yamaha and Kawasaki have totally retooled in an effort to dethrone Yates and Suzuki in this year's championship.

Honda's Duhamel certainly knows what it takes to win on the high banks of Daytona International Speedway. Honda has won the Daytona Supersport 10 times and half of those victories came with Miguel Duhamel at the controls (Duhamel won the race in 1993 race on a Kawasaki). Duhamel has nothing but rave reviews about Honda's new CBR600RR. "Before the Hondas were great street bikes with a racing edge so that we could go out there and win," Duhamel told AMASuperbike.com earlier this year. "This time they totally--totally--stepped away from that concept. Now, they're going to build a race bike and then we're going to try and make it street legal if you will, put some flashers on it and send it on the street."

Honda comes to the Daytona Supersport party with three direct factory riders, Duhamel, Kurtis Roberts and Ben Bostrom, and a remarkable eight riders on factory-supported teams. The total of 11 Honda-backed riders in AMA Supersport is the most any one manufacturer has supported in the history of the class. That's how serious Big Red is about winning Daytona.

Yamaha also fields a very strong team this year with riders on the redesigned R6. Jamie Hacking and Damon Buckmaster bring a wealth of experience to the team, while Aaron Gobert and Jason DiSalvo inject youthful exuberance into the squad. Yamaha follows only Honda in terms of Daytona Supersport wins. The team was won the race three times, but its last victory at Daytona came in 1990 with Jeff Farmer. Kawasaki, like Honda, has adopted a race-first philosophy with its new ZX-6RR. In fact, in Kawasaki's marketing material for the new ZX it states that the machine is designed specifically with the expert and professional racer in mind. Eric Bostrom, Tony Meiring and Tommy Hayden are the factory entries for Kawasaki. The team has twice won the Daytona Supersport race.

Joining Yates on the factory Suzuki AMA Supersport effort is Ben Spies. Suzuki will also field a solid group of factory-supported teams at Daytona.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Pro Honda Oils sponsorship of AMA Supersport racing. Pro Honda Oils has the distinction of being the longest continuous series sponsor in AMA Pro Racing.

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 Chevy Trucks U.S. Superbike Championship.

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Series AMA
Drivers Kurtis Roberts , Miguel Duhamel , Tommy Hayden , Tony Meiring , Jamie Hacking , Doug Chandler , Aaron Yates , Eric Bostrom , Damon Buckmaster , Ben Spies , Aaron Gobert , Michael Barnes , Ben Bostrom