Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca
Sunday, July 24, 2011
Eslick Conquers Laguna Seca, Wins U.S. Grand Prix for Team GEICO
by Rob Geiger, GEICO Racing
MONTEREY, Calif. -- Sunday's AMA Daytona Pro SportBike race at Laguna Seca was shortened by two red-flag incidents from 23 to 10 laps around the 2.23-mile layout of Mazda Raceway, but championship points leader Danny Eslick didn't seem to mind as he collected his second straight victory and third of the year aboard the GEICO Suzuki GSX-R to put a stranglehold on the 2011 title.
Eslick's victory at the seventh annual Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix, combined with second-place points earner Josh Herrin's failure to finish, unofficially gives the decorated rider from Broken Arrow, Okla., a sizable 45-point edge with just one event -- consisting of two races -- left on the schedule. The most points a rider can earn in a single race is 32.
"To get a win at Laguna Seca, a sacred place for motorcycle riders, and to do it at this point in the championship chase is pretty incredible," Eslick said. "Race wins definitely help the most towards the championship. You need to be there week-in and week-out, and I would have been happy anywhere on the podium today, but a win is always the best result. It's huge for us and for GEICO, Lucas Oil, Suzuki, Millennium Technologies, and everyone else that supports this program."
The first red flag came just after the start when Paul Allison and Jake Holden went down hard in Turn 2. The delay was significant enough that officials announced the race would be shortened to 15 laps.
"The restart wasn't great for me and I got shuffled back but I knew I didn't want to drop too far," Eslick said. "It took me a few laps to get into a rhythm and hit my marks. They said 15 laps so that pretty much turned it into a sprint race, something a little different than what we're used to. There was no time to wait."
Eslick kept the front pack directly in his sights for the next eight circuits, moving up to third when Herrin dropped out with a blown engine. Eslick then made a classic, breath-taking move around the outside of pole-sitter Jason DiSalvo and the surging Cameron Beaubier to take the lead.
"Cameron showed Jason a wheel coming into Turn 11 and (Jason) looked to his left just long enough for me to go for it," Eslick said. "I just closed my eyes and went wide right and got around both of them. I was able to hold on for the next few laps and then they red-flagged it. I was the lucky guy in the lead at that point."
The final red flag occurred when another rider went down at the top of the famous corkscrew section and was unable to get his machine off the racing surface.
"I hate to see Josh get a DNF but it definitely worked to our favor," Eslick said. "New Jersey can't get here soon enough now. We've got a little space (in the standings) but nothing is over until it's completely sewn up."
Sunday's race will be shown at 8 p.m. PST on SPEED TV.