With the news that MotoAmerica is headed to Daytona International Speedway in March of 2022 for the Daytona 200, we decided the perfect way to build excitement for the event would be to start digging through the history books and memory banks. Since Paul Carruthers is literally as old as the Speedway itself and covered almost 30 Daytona 200s as a journalist while working at Cycle News, it was a no-brainer that it would be him who would take on the task of trying to recall the good and the bad. And since we are the home of the AMA Superbike Series, we figured we’d have him start his look back with the 1985 Daytona 200 – the first of the 200s to feature Superbikes – and go from there. This week, we focus on the 2016 and 2017 Daytona 200s.
Winner: Michael Barnes, Yamaha YZF-R6
At the ripe old age of 47, Floridian Michael Barnes won the 2016 Daytona 200, breaking a record originally held by Dick Mann in 1971 as the oldest winner of the race. Barnes came out of retirement to lead 46 of the 57 laps on his Palm Beach Police Foundation/Prieto Performance Yamaha YZF-R6.
“I’m kind of speechless and fumbling for words,” said a tearful Barnes in Victory Lane. “All of you people who helped me… you know who you are. I just can’t thank everyone enough. This one is for quite a few people.”
The Turning Point: The turning point for the 2016 Daytona 200 took place before the race when two-time and defending 200 champion Danny Eslick was suspended from competition by the AMA for being charged with battery on a law enforcement officer the Monday of Bike Week in Florida.
Newsworthy: Barnes took the lead early in the race from pole sitter Geoff May and eventually pulled away to a 10.084-second margin of victory. “It was awesome for him to come out of retirement and put a whuppin’ on all of us,” May said. “Barney had the pace today; he was getting after it.”
Wyatt Farris rode his Trackside Suspension & Engineering/MD Racing Yamaha YZF-R6 to third place in his first-ever Daytona 200, the rookie suffering from dehydration and mechanical issues to finish over 45 seconds behind Barnes.
The race was stopped briefly on the 19th lap when Brett Moinar crashed his Yamaha YZF-R6, and it caught fire.
John Ashmead, the 1989 winner of the Daytona 200, set the all-time record for most race miles completed en route to finishing 19th in the race.
Sixty-six-year-old Arthur Kowitz became the oldest rider to finish the iconic event. Kowitz finished 41st after completing 41 laps.
Winner: Danny Eslick, Yamaha YZF-R6
Danny Eslick won his third Daytona 200 in a thrilling last-lap battle with his long-time rival and close friend, Cory West.
“It was an incredible race… just good, clean fun,” Eslick said. “I didn’t know Cory was just going to go for it on the last lap.”
The Turning Point: Post-race, West was disqualified for using an illegal BMC air filter on his Trackside Suspension & Engineering Yamaha YZF-R6. During the race, West and his team used crafty pit stops to work into the lead on the final lap with Eslick right on his tail.
“I just tried to go as hard as I could on the last lap,” West said. “Going into the banking. I tried to keep the bike high to keep Danny behind, but when I went low the bike lost rpm and Danny just edged past. To have the result stripped from us like this is a kick in the nuts, but we have lodged the appeal so we will wait until April to see the result.”
Newsworthy: West’s disqualification bumped 2016 Daytona 200 Champion Michael Barnes to second place with Kyle Wyman finishing third.
The 2017 Daytona 200 featured three red flags.
MotoAmerica Supersport racer Valentin Debise suffered an issue with his rear brake that caused him to miss the second restart. However, the third red flag allowed him to restart from the back of the field – two laps down. The Frenchman knifed his way through the field, posted the fastest lap of the race, and gained back one lap to ultimately finish an impressive fifth.