DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – GEICO Suzuki rider Martin Cardenas powered his GSX-R600 Daytona SportBike around the 3.5-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway in a blistering 1:49.560 seconds Friday afternoon to secure the pole for the prestigious 71st annual Daytona 200.
For his efforts, Cardenas was awarded a Rolex Cosmograph Daytona watch, the coveted timepiece traditionally presented to the polesitter of this race.
“I almost won the Rolex in 2010 but Danny (Eslick) managed to get me by a fraction of a second right at the end of qualifying,” Cardenas said. “So it’s especially satisfying to finish the job this time.
“Of course, this is just qualifying and being on the pole is not worth any championship points so we need to carry this momentum into race day and have a strong showing. Then I will be satisfied. But certainly, this is a great start for the GEICO team.”
Cardenas and his Team Hammer crew worked hard to find the properbalance between rider and machine during Thursday’s practice session. The extra effort paid dividends Friday as Cardenas was second quickest in the morning session (1:49.775 lap time) before grabbing the pole in the final qualifying round.
“Yesterday we were playing a little bit with the set-up of the bike,” Cardenas said. “We weren’t getting enough grip with the rear tire so we worked on it and found something that helped quite a bit. “I could tell a big difference this morning and rode pretty fast. Then, in this afternoon’s session, I was able to improve, so we are quite happy.
“It was a bit of pressure. I started good but made a mistake and ran off the track. I re-entered and found someone to draft down the straightaway, which helped me quite a bit. Then I got behind Cameron (Beaubier) and although there was a bit of a gap I rode as hard as I could and was able to go slightly quicker to get the pole.”
Beaubier ended up second with a best lap of 1:49.742, while Joey Pascarella filled out the front row by finishing third with a 1:50.155. This is the second career pole for Cardenas, who also took the top spot at the 2009 event in Laguna Seca. Cardenas has 16 victories in the Daytona SportBike class, the most of any rider in history.
Pos. Rider Bike Time 1 Martin Cardenas Suzuki GSX-R600 01:49.6 2 Cameron Beaubier Yamaha YZF-R6 01:49.7 3 Jason DiSalvo Triumph 01:49.8 4 Joey Pascarella Yamaha YZF-R6 01:50.9 5 Jake Zemke Ducati 848 01:50.9 6 Jake Gagne Yamaha YZF-R6 01:51.0 7 Dane Westby Suzuki GSX-R600 01:51.1 8 Tommy Aquino Yamaha YZF-R6 01:51.3 9 JD Beach Yamaha YZF-R6 01:51.5 10 Huntley Nash Yamaha YZF-R6 01:51.5 11 Cory West Suzuki GSX-R600 01:51.6 12 Benny Solis Suzuki GSX-R600 01:51.6 13 Tommy Hayden Yamaha YZF-R6 01:51.6 14 Barrett Long Ducati 848 01:51.9 15 Bobby Fong Yamaha YZF-R6 01:52.1