Herrin cruises to third Daytona 200 victory

Josh Herrin cemented himself as a Daytona 200 legend on Saturday, dominating the 82nd running of the historic 57-lap event to successfully defend his crown for Warhorse HSBK Ducati.

A winner in 2010 with Yamaha and again one year ago with HSBK, Herrin never looked quite as comfortable on Thursday and Friday of this year’s event as he qualified fifth on the grid and almost a full-second behind pole-sitter Tyler Scott.

That was all thrown out after just one turn on Saturday, as he got an excellent launch from the middle row and immediately snatched the lead from Scott with ten other riders breaking away in the early lead group.

A mix of key mistakes, crashes, and mechanical issues would dwindle that crowd down to six by lap five, with Herrin trading places as part of a predictable slipstream battle with Scott, Richie Escalante, Bobby Fong, Richard Cooper, and Karel Hanika. 

The first major turning point came during the initial pit window, however, as Herrin stormed into the pit lane and benefitted from a terrific stop as the Warhorse HSBK Ducati crew sent him back out into a comfortable lead.

The Glendale, California native would hold position for the entire second stint before just narrowly avoiding a disaster on his second pit entry, running out of fuel only moments after leaving the final banking with 20 laps to go.

Herrin luckily was able to coast to his pit stall and return to the circuit with a lead intact, albeit a much smaller one with a hard-charging Escalante behind him. The Vision Wheel M4 ECSTAR Suzuki rider was able to cut the deficit to just 3.5 seconds at one point, searching for a poetic comeback after their duel one year ago. 

Any chance of that comeback was promptly denied by Herrin, who pushed the gap back to five seconds and carved his way through heavy lapped traffic to build an insurmountable lead.

The gap would wind up much larger than it actually was at the time, as Escalante ran out of fuel on the final lap and slipped from second to fifth while coasting around the 5.65 km layout, moving Scott to second and more than 45 seconds back of Herrin. 

“To be honest, I didn’t have a lot of faith in my team after the pit stop challenge last night, but I owe them a huge apology because they were perfect,” Herrin said with a smile. “It’s really hard doing 30 to 40 laps by yourself, so we were pretty worried about fuel, but it’s a lucky race. You can do all the prep, all the training, all the hard work, but in the end this race is 90% luck.”

The third career victory puts him in exclusive company at the historic Daytona 200 event, becoming only the tenth rider to win that many times and seventh since switching to the paved road course in 1961, while a fourth victory would put him alongside only Danny Eslick and five-time winners Miguel Duhamel and Scott Russell. 

“Growing up watching [those guys], it feels amazing to be a part of it,” Herrin said. “I love this race so much, and I’m always going to try and do it as long as I can.”

As for the M4 Suzuki squad, it was Escalante’s heartbreak that turned into Scott’s last-lap fortune, though at the cost of a potential double-podium for the team. The result makes the 18-year-old Scott one of the youngest podium finishers in recent history, as his sensational weekend set the tone for the upcoming MotoAmerica Supersport campaign.

Joining them on the podium was Vesrah Suzuki rider Hayden Gillim, who missed out on third place in controversial circumstances a year ago but made sure to bring the bronze medal home in his third appearance at the venue.

The last rider to squeeze past Escalante on-track was Bobby Fong, who originally marked four Suzuki’s in the top-five aboard his Wrench Motorcycles machine. However, that machine failed to pass Parc Ferme tech inspection due to a fuel infraction, disqualifying Fong from the final order.  

That moved Escalante back to fourth in the end results, a spot that could have been much higher but nonetheless was a strong effort from the Mexican as he helped put all four “Team Hammer” bikes in the top-ten, with two-time winner Brandon Paasch seventh and Teagg Hobbs tenth. 

That would also promote Yamaha Austrian Racing Team rider Karel Hanika to the final place in the top-five, one position ahead of his World Endurance teammate Marvin Fritz in sixth on their Daytona 200 debuts.

Completing the top-ten was Stefano Mesa in eighth for Boulder Motorsports Ducati and Ben Young in ninth for Team BATTLAX Suzuki, while fan-favourite Kayla Yaakov scored a sensational eleventh in her Supersport debut for Rahal Ducati Moto.

Notably absent from the final finishing order were the likes of Peter Hickman, Josh Hayes, and Xavi Fores, who each suffered mechanical failures while running inside the top-15. 

Full results from the 82nd running of the Daytona 200 can be found on the MotoAmerica official website.