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Mbna 250 Grand Prix at Daytona celebrates 40th anniversary. PICKERINGTON, Ohio -- The MBNA 250 Grand Prix Series kicks off with a milestone event at Daytona International Speedway. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Daytona 250 Grand ...

Mbna 250 Grand Prix at Daytona celebrates 40th anniversary.

PICKERINGTON, Ohio -- The MBNA 250 Grand Prix Series kicks off with a milestone event at Daytona International Speedway. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Daytona 250 Grand Prix, formerly called the International Lightweight 100. The late Dick Hammer, a Motorcycle Hall of Fame inductee who died in January, won the inaugural event in 1963 riding a Harley-Davidson Sprint. Daytona's Lightweight race ran as the sole support race for the Daytona 200 for many years and was the predecessor to the formation of the AMA 250 Grand Prix Series, which began in 1977. Chuck Sorensen is the defending Daytona 250 Grand Prix winner as well as series champion.

Sorensen, 30, from Sunnyvale, Calif., will embark on an attempt to become only the second rider in the history of AMA 250 Grand Prix to win four championships. Rich Oliver is the only rider to have four titles in the series. Sorensen has been readying for the season by testing with Team Stargel Aprilia during the off-season. He set a new track record at North Florida Motorsports Park in January. Sorensen's championship last year marked the first major American road racing title for Aprilia.

"I'd love to," Sorensen said about the possibility of winning back-to-back 250 GPs at Daytona. "I've gotten a lot of help directly from Aprilia in Italy. They'd like to win it again and after seeing our results from last year they're jumping into it even stronger and giving us more support. That's really nice to see."

Rich Oliver is coming back to try to extend his record of MBNA 250 Grand Prix titles to five. Oliver, the all-time wins leader in AMA 250 Grand Prix with 60 victories, is a five-time winner at Daytona. Other top riders in the 250 class at Daytona includes Ireland's Simon Turner, who will be riding TSR Hondas this season; Chris Pyles, who purchased the A-kitted Honda that Jason DiSalvo rode last year; and Florida's own Perry Melneciuc, who finished third in the 2002 series. Justin Long, son of 1985 Daytona 250 Grand Prix winner John Long, is also slated to ride at the Speedway.

A Who's Who of champions have won the Daytona 250 Grand Prix over the years, including legends like Dick Mann, Gary Nixon, Yvon DuHamel, Kel Carruthers, Kenny Roberts, Eddie Lawson, Wayne Rainey, Freddie Spencer, Jimmy Filice, Kork Ballington, John Kocinski and Colin Edwards.

MBNA America, one of the leading credit card issuers in the world, is entering its fourth year of sponsoring the series. Prior to that, MBNA sponsored the AMA Superbike Championship.

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Series AMA
Drivers Colin Edwards , Kenny Roberts Jr. , Wayne Rainey , Eddie Lawson , John Long