The 2014 AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike season has been a barn burner and the series looks to continue that trend at this weekend's race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca at the combined AMA Pro Road Racing/FIM Superbike World Championship event. The GEICO Motorcycle U.S. Round, held on the 11-turn, 2.238-mile track, will feature a number of different riders and machines from around the globe, but the fierce middleweight battle might be the toughest fight on the card.
Each of the three AMA Pro Road Racing previous events this year has seen a different standout rider claim the spoils. At Daytona, Danny Eslick on the No. 69 Riders Discount Racing Triumph Daytona 675R earned pole and a DAYTONA 200 victory. At the Road America races, Jake Gagne, pilot of the No. 32 RoadRace Factory/Red Bull Yamaha YZF-R6, took the double win by outrunning the pack. At the last race, Dane Westby earned his share of glory in a runaway victory and a come-from-behind triumph on his No. 00 Yamalube/Westby Racing Yamaha YZF-R6.
Gagne leads the points heading into Laguna Seca. The Californian has been solid all season and the only blight on his record so far was getting caught up in a Saturday crash in Alabama. Gagne leads the points, 121 to 109, over Eslick. Gagne, known for his consistency, wasn't able to extend the lead he assumed at Road America and will no doubt be looking to build on his margin in California.
Gagne led much of Sunday's race in Alabama and, in a class with many contenders, has shown championship form in 2014. The former Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup champion looked great on the way to second place in points last year and has taken another step forward in his third season in AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike.
Eslick, a two-time series champion, has also excelled in his return from AMA Pro SuperBike. The Oklahoman is known for his flashy style but is remarkably consistent in his results. Eslick rarely tosses away points in the races. After winning the championship on Buell and Suzuki machinery, the fan favorite could extend his reputation by taking a third title on his Triumph this year. The British bike could suit the twisty confines of Laguna Seca well.
Fast teen Jake Lewis on the No. 85 MotoSport.com/Meen Yamaha YZF-R6 is third in points, just five behind Eslick. The Kentuckian has also revealed his speed this year and his first class win seems inevitable. Lewis has had plenty of highlights so far, and while he is yet to win, Lewis has forced others to outpace him to earn their victories. Lewis is aggressive and talented, and it's only a matter of time before he claims that maiden victory.
Fourth place rider JD Beach aboard the No. 6 Yamaha Extended Service/Monster Energy/Graves/Yamaha YZF-R6 is also a frequent visitor to the podium. Along with teammate Garrett Gerloff, pilot of the No. 8 Yamaha Extended Service/Monster Energy/Graves/Yamaha YZF-R6, Beach has usually been one of the protagonists at the front for the factory Yamaha entry. However, the duo is still searching for the team's first victories of the season. Beach quickly transitioned to the factory squad this year and has two seconds and a third so far.
Westby is fifth in points, rocketing back into the title hunt with an awesome Alabama weekend. Westby's double win brought him to within 22 points of the lead and with five races to go, he is still very much alive in his title quest. While those wins were impressive, it was the way in which they came that was shocking. Westby passed five of the toughest AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike riders in the second half of Sunday's race to take the checkered flag. "The Wolverine" had some bad luck the first two races of the year, but three podiums in a row show he and his squad are as fast as anyone in the class.
Kyle Wyman on the No. 33 Kyle Wyman Racing Yamaha YZF-R6 has been "Mr. Consistent" in 2014. The New Yorker has a great string of finishes that have elevated him up the charts.
Veteran Jake Zemke, riding the No. 98 GEICO Motorcycle Road Racing Honda CBR600RR has done the same, scoring each time out as his squad develops the Honda.
Youngsters Benny Solis on the No. 35 Team H35 Yamaha YZF-R6 and Tomas Puerta on his No. 12 RoadRace Factory/Red Bull Yamaha YZF-R6 are separated by just one point in ninth and 10th, respectively. Solis showed what he could do at Laguna Seca in 2008 during the Red Bull AMA Rookies Cup. Puerta has been the class' top rookie in 2014.
Just behind them is a group of veteran riders. Jason DiSalvo on the No. 40 Castrol/Triumph/Sportbike Track Time Triumph Racing Daytona 675, Blake Young riding the No. 79 GN Gonzalez Racing Yamaha YZF-R6, Bobby Fong aboard the No. 50 Latus Motors/Castrol/Triumph Racing Daytona 675, and No. 15 D&D Cycles/Castrol/Triumph Racing's Steve Rapp have all won in AMA Pro before, so the talent in the class extends well outside the top ten.
Fong's Alabama performances were noteworthy. The Californian came back from last on a restart to earn a podium on Saturday and crashed out of the race on the last lap while fighting for the podium in Sunday's contest.
With no AMA Pro SuperSport action at Laguna Seca, some of the top talent from that class will get a shot at AMA Pro Daytona SportBike. Kaleb De Keyrel on the No. 51 De Keyrel Racing Yamaha YZF-R6 is one of those racers, and is riding high after his double-podium in Alabama.
A total of 33 riders are entered for the race to be held on Sunday at 1:25 local time (4:25 p.m. ET).