Cardenas On Top Of Daytona 200 Qualifying

Martin Cardenas set the fastest time in qualifying with a 1:49.6 (Photo: Nelson)

Martin Cardenas set the fastest time in qualifying with a 1:49.6 (Photo: Nelson)

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.

1Martin CardenasSuzuki GSX-R60001:49.6
2Cameron BeaubierYamaha YZF-R601:49.7
3Jason DiSalvoTriumph01:49.8
4Joey PascarellaYamaha YZF-R601:50.9
5Jake ZemkeDucati 84801:50.9
6Jake GagneYamaha YZF-R601:51.0
7Dane WestbySuzuki GSX-R60001:51.1
8Tommy AquinoYamaha YZF-R601:51.3
9JD BeachYamaha YZF-R601:51.5
10Huntley NashYamaha YZF-R601:51.5
11Cory WestSuzuki GSX-R60001:51.6
12Benny SolisSuzuki GSX-R60001:51.6
13Tommy HaydenYamaha YZF-R601:51.6
14Barrett LongDucati 84801:51.9
15Bobby FongYamaha YZF-R601:52.1