DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Danny Eslick used a classic slingshot move coming out of NASCAR turn four to pass Cory West on the last lap Saturday and win the Daytona 200 motorcycle classic for the third time.
Eslick, riding the No. 69 TOBC Racing Yamaha 600, traded the lead repeatedly with West’s No. 13 Trackside Suspension and Engineering Yamaha 600 over the last five laps of the 58-lap event on the 3.51-mile Daytona Int’l Speedway road course.
On the last lap alone Eslick led at the outset but lost the advantage to West in the horseshoe turns. West built a seemingly safe lead in NASCAR Turn 2 but Eslick gave chase, eventually getting the needed momentum for a final pass, drafting off the 31-degree banking in turn four on the high side, going on to edge West by .041 of a second.
Eslick also won the Daytona 200 in 2014 and 2015. He missed last year’s race after being suspended due to an off-track incident. He is the sixth three-time champion of the road racing classic, joining an elite list that also includes Dick Klamfoth (1949, ’51-52), Brad Andres (1955, ’59-60), Roger Reiman (1961, ’64-65), Kenny Roberts (1978, ’83-84) and Mat Mladin (2000-01, ’04). Scott Russell and Miguel Duhamel share the all-time DAYTONA 200 wins record with five.
Last year’s champion and this year’s polesitter Michael Barnes (No. 34 Prieto Performance Yamaha 600) rallied late to finish third.
The race got off to a slow start, with three red flags producing three complete Lap 1 restarts. When things settled down, the Yamahas settled in – and a battle ensued involving the pre-race favorites.
Saturday marked the 24th DAYTONA 200 victory for Yamaha, the most in race history for a manufacturer. Eslick’s three victories have come on three different makes. This victory was worth $25,000 from a total purse of $175,000 – plus a steel-and-gold Rolex Cosmograph Daytona watch.
“It was an incredible race, just good clean, fun out there … good, clean racing,” said Eslick. “I didn’t know Cory was just going to go for it on the last lap.”
“I did have a plan,” said West. “I knew I was going to have a hard time drafting past him to the stripe [from behind]. So when we took the white flag it was kind of just chase him, maybe beat him out of the chicane, stay high by the wall and force him to go low and maybe give me one more opportunity to draft him on the front straight. I stayed high and was thinking ‘Come on Danny, go low.’ But he didn’t. So, once I was up high I turned really hard and went to the bottom. I saw Danny [go by] on the right.”
“He couldn’t draft me so I was definitely happy, just sitting on him that last lap,” Eslick said.