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Daytona: Season opener pre-event notes

67th Daytona 200 by Honda PICKERINGTON, Ohio -- The 67th Daytona 200 by Honda takes place on Saturday, March 8 at Daytona International Speedway, with the on-track activities getting underway on Wednesday, March 5. Illustrious History The ...

67th Daytona 200 by Honda

PICKERINGTON, Ohio -- The 67th Daytona 200 by Honda takes place on Saturday, March 8 at Daytona International Speedway, with the on-track activities getting underway on Wednesday, March 5.

Illustrious History

The Daytona 200 is the most storied motorcycle race in the United States and has enjoyed a great many legendary performances over the years, starting with the victory of Ed 'Iron Man' Kretz Sr. aboard an Indian Sport Scout on the beach in the inaugural 200-miler back in 1937.

Among the other legends of motorsport to have won the famed race are Nicky Hayden, Mat Mladin, Miguel DuHamel, Scott Russell, Kevin Schwantz, Wayne Rainey, Eddie Lawson, Freddie Spencer, Kenny Roberts, Steve Baker, Dick Mann, Cal Rayborn and Gary Nixon.

One More Lap

Due to a slightly shorter configuration following changes to the infield layout, the 2008 Daytona 200 will be 69 laps, one lap longer than the 2007 race.

66th Daytona 200 Review

Honda and Dunlop, winners of both prior Daytona 200s following the switch from Superbike to Formula Xtreme regulations for the Daytona main event, were the heavy favorites to claim a third straight victory in the contest at last year's season opener.

However, an upset was served when the powerful Honda contingent encountered fuel problems during the race and the Attack Kawasaki duo of Steve Rapp and Ben Attard stepped forward with a tremendous 1-2 performance. Rapp and Attard were joined by Team M4 EMGO Suzuki's Michael Barnes, who gave Pirelli a clean sweep of the podium in addition to their first-ever Daytona 200 win.

Rapp's Back (and with a New Teammate)

Steve Rapp's first-career Daytona 200 victory came in his first outing with Attack Kawasaki. The 36-year-old Californian will be back with the team to defend his 200 crown, but with a new teammate, the talented Welshman Chaz Davies. Davies is a former 250cc World Grand Prix competitor who impressed mightily during his rookie AMA campaign in 2007, which included a fourth-place finish in the Daytona 200.

Out for Redemption

American Honda will be looking to make up for last year's disappointment and is once again boasting an impressive cadre of top-caliber pilots.

Leading the way is American Honda Racing's Miguel Duhamel, who is currently tied for first on the all-time Daytona 200 wins list with five to his credit.

600cc Rookie

Duhamel's new American Honda teammate is the vastly experienced Neil Hodgson. The Englishman is a former World and British Superbike champion, an AMA Superbike race winner, and a former 500GP and MotoGP competitor. However, this year's Daytona 200 will be Hodgson's first ever race aboard a 600cc motorcycle.

Hayes and Zemke Also Favorites

The Erion Honda Racing team must also to be considered a major threat to win the 200.

Mississippian Josh Hayes is the two-time defending Formula Xtreme class champion. A Daytona 200 win is about the only significant accomplishment missing from his impressive FX resume.

His "new" teammate is Jake Zemke, the 2006 Daytona 200 winner. For 2008, Zemke has returned to the Erion Honda team to compete in Formula Xtreme and Supersport following three seasons with the factory Honda Superbike team.

Zemke did not exit the Superbike class with his tail between his legs, however. The Californian finished third in the points last season and was the only man outside of the dominating Suzuki duo of Ben Spies and Mat Mladin to register a race win over the past two seasons.

Coverage on SPEED TV

SPEED plans live coverage of racing from Daytona. The AMA Pro Honda Oils Supersport Championship presented by Shoei and the AMA Superstock Championship presented by Dynojet will air beginning 3:30 p.m. Eastern time on Thursday, March 6. Coverage of AMA Superbike Championship presented by Parts Unlimited begins at 11 a.m. Eastern time on Saturday, March 8, with live coverage of the Daytona 200 following at 1:30 p.m.

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AMA SUPERBIKE PRESENTED BY PARTS UNLIMITED

Domination

Suzuki has dominated the Daytona Superbike race in recent seasons, winning the last four in succession (including the final Daytona 200 raced on Superbike machinery in 2004). That shouldn't come as much of a surprise, however, as the Rockstar Makita Yoshimura Suzuki team has reigned over the Superbike class since 2003, taking every title since the AMA Superbike class began allowing 1000cc four-cylinder motorcycles to compete.

Their dominating position has only been furthered in recent times with Rockstar Makita Yoshimura Suzuki teammates Ben Spies and Mat Mladin combining to win every single Superbike race in 2007 as Spies edged Mladin to win his second straight AMA Superbike title by a single point.

Spies and Mladin are both back with the team in 2008 and have looked similarly impressive during off season testing.

Numbers

Australian Mladin owns the career AMA Superbike marks for championships (six), race wins (63), and pole positions (52). He also established a new single-season win record last season (12).

Despite having only raced in the AMA Superbike class for three seasons, Spies is racing up the all-time charts as well. The MotoGP prospect is already fourth in both career wins (18) and poles (16) and just one of seven men to win back-to-back AMA Superbike titles. Perhaps most impressively, the Texan's career Superbike podium percentage is above 90 percent.

Despite the duo's gaudy numbers, the one that will likely stand out as most obvious to race fans at Daytona is Mladin's new competition number ('6'), as the Suzuki star will don a number other than '1' or '66' for the first time in his AMA career.

Challengers

Despite Spies and Mladin's success in recent seasons, they won't be without challengers at Daytona. Factory teams from Honda, Yamaha, and Kawasaki, featuring such talented riders as Miguel DuHamel, Neil Hodgson, Eric Bostrom, Jason DiSalvo, Jamie Hacking, Roger Hayden, and Akira Yanagawa, will do everything in their power to bring a sense of parity back to the series.

Spies and Mladin could also be pressed by their fellow Suzuki-mounted riders, with Rockstar Makita Yoshiumura Suzuki teammate Tommy Hayden and Jordan Suzuki's Aaron Yates counted among the riders most likely to upset the order in 2008.

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AMA PRO HONDA OILS SUPERSPORT PRESENTED BY SHOEI

Title Defense

Monster Energy Kawasaki's Roger Hayden carried the momentum he gained by winning last season's AMA Supersport season opener at Daytona on to his career-first AMA Pro title following a tight three-way battle, which also included his teammate, Jamie Hacking, and Erion Honda's Josh Hayes.

While two-time Supersport champion Hacking is focusing on the Superbike class this season, Hayden will be back to defend both his season and Daytona triumphs with his new #1 plate.

Despite Hacking's absence, Hayden knows he'll face stiff competition from Hayes, who won more races than any other rider in the class last season (four).

There's More

The Supersport class looks to be as deep as it's been in recent memory. Two-time Supersport champion Tommy Hayden, the brother of the new class champ, is expected to return to competitiveness following an injury-plagued '07 season, while former Supersport race winner Jake Zemke is back in the class with Erion Honda.

At just 17 years old, Graves Yamaha's Josh Herrin claimed his first Supersport win during the 2007 season finale at Laguna Seca. He's got a new teammate in the class in former AMA Superbike champion and multi-time World Superbike race winner Ben Bostrom.

Others that should be considered potential title contenders include Team M4 EMGO Suzuki's Martin Cardenas, Attack Kawasaki's Chaz Davies and Steve Rapp, and Rockwall Honda's Aaron Gobert.

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AMA SUPERSTOCK PRESENTED BY DYNOJET

A Familiar Position but in a Different Sport: Jordan Stands as Title Favorite

The 2008 AMA Superstock season opener at Daytona is expected to be the class' final race at the venue as the class is scheduled to essentially be merged with the Superbike category in 2009 with stricter restrictions planned for the premier class.

With '07 class champion Ben Spies concentrating solely on his Superbike efforts this season, and runner-up Ben Bostrom switching to Supersport, Jordan Suzuki's Aaron Yates is considered the early favorite.

The Georgian has an impressive background in the 'near-stock' categories, having previously claimed titles in Superstock ('05), Supersport ('02), and 750 Supersport ('96).

And in This Corner

Yates' biggest threat may come from his new teammate on NBA legend Michael Jordan's squad, fellow Georgian Geoff May. After years of establishing himself as one of the top Superstock and Supersport riders with Team M4 EMGO Suzuki, May is hoping to enjoy his most successful season yet in his first year with Jordan Suzuki.

Considering the wide-open field (due to the absence of the dominating skills of MotoGP prospect Spies), May should be provided with his best opportunities yet to finally claim his first-ever AMA Superbike Championships race win in 2008.

Other Superstock riders to watch include May's replacement at Team M4 EMGO Suzuki, Blake Young, and the man May replaced at Jordan Suzuki, Corona Honda's Jake Holden, who won the '07 season finale at Laguna Seca.

The Return of Mr. Daytona

A special treat for the fans at Daytona this year is the return of 'Mr. Daytona,' Scott Russell. Russell, a former AMA and World Superbike champion, is a five-time Daytona 200 winner who is coming out of retirement to compete in this year's Superbike and Superstock races on the famed high banks.

Russell will be riding with backing from his former teammate and rival Jamie James aboard a Michelin-shod Yamaha YZF-R1.

-credit: ama

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Series AMA
Drivers Kevin Schwantz , Steve Rapp , Nicky Hayden , Miguel Duhamel , Tommy Hayden , Joshua Hayes , Jamie Hacking , Scott Russell , Kenny Roberts Jr. , Geoff May , Aaron Yates , Eric Bostrom , Neil Hodgson , Jake Zemke , Roger Lee Hayden , Ben Spies , Wayne Rainey , Eddie Lawson , Aaron Gobert , Chaz Davies , Blake Young , Ben Attard , Freddie Spencer , Jake Holden , Josh Herrin , Martin Cardenas , Ben Bostrom