DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Kyle Wyman, riding the N2Racing Yamaha, emerged from a late-race, four-lap shootout to win the 78th Daytona 200 on Saturday at Daytona Int’l Speedway.
Wyman edged polesitter Sean Dylan Kelly (M4 Ecstar Suzuki) and Bobby Fong (M4 Ecstar Suzuki), who started second in the 60-bike field. The margin between Wyman and sixth-place finisher Geoff May was only 1.206 seconds. That statistic illustrated the closeness of the four-lap battle that ensued following a red-flag period.
The red flag was brought out on lap 53 after an incident involving third-place starter Jason Aguilar that set up a four-lap shootout to the finish. The restart came on lap 54. After several swaps of the lead among the frontrunners, Wyman took control for good coming out of the chicane on the 57th and final lap, pulling away from his rivals as the cycles climbed the 31-degree banking in the speedway’s turn three and turn four. Wyman took the checkered flag .213 of a second ahead of Kelly.
“To win it like this, Daytona, in a four-lap sprint race, it’s just unreal,” said Wyman, who said the red-flag period was fortuitous.
Worried about running out of fuel before the race ended, he was conserving fuel down the stretch, just trying to finish or at best carve out a podium (top three) result.
“I’m speechless – what a race … the high and lows of a 200-mile endurance race, you know,” Wyman said. “I ran out of fuel on the last lap the second stint and I was just gutted. I was riding around in third place [toward the end] but the red came out and I had another shot.”
Kelly also could credit some luck for his finish. Due to earlier mechanical issues and an extended pit stop that cost him valuable time, he fell a lap down and stayed that way – until the red-flag period. The red flag allowed him a “wave-around” that put him back onto the lead lap for the restart.
“That restart saved the whole 200 for me,” said Kelly, a 16-year-old from Hollywood, Fla., who was trying to become the youngest winner in the race’s history. On Friday he had become the youngest-ever polesitter.
Josh Hayes finished fourth on a Yamaha. The accomplished 43-year old rider – a four-time (2010-12, ’14) AMA Superbike champion – returned this year to the Daytona 200 for the first time since 2009. He was declared the winner in 2008 but his bike failed post-race inspection and his finish was disallowed.
Four-time champion Danny Eslick’s quest to become the third five-time champion of the Daytona 200 ended early. Eslick was running in the top 10 when he went off-course on lap 11. After getting back onto the track, he came down pit road and eventually left the race due to mechanical issues, ultimately finishing a distant 55th.
The Daytona 200, sanctioned by the American Sportbike Racing Ass’n, was the final major race of the 78th Bike Week At Daytona.