With the news that MotoAmerica is headed to Daytona International Speedway in March of 2022 for the Daytona 200, we decided the perfect way to build excitement for the event would be to start digging through the history books and memory banks. Since Paul Carruthers is literally as old as the Speedway itself and covered almost 30 Daytona 200s as a journalist while working at Cycle News, it was a no-brainer that it would be him who would take on the task of trying to recall the good and the bad. And since we are the home of the AMA Superbike Series, we figured we’d have him start his look back with the 1985 Daytona 200 – the first of the 200s to feature Superbikes – and go from there. This week, we focus on the 2006 and 2007 Daytona 200s.
Winner: Jake Zemke, Honda CBR600RR
Jake Zemke flew under the radar in winning the 65th running of the Daytona 200 as everyone focused on Zemke’s American Honda teammate Miguel Duhamel, who was out to win his sixth 200. Instead, it was Zemke notching his first win of any kind at Daytona International Speedway and it was the big one.
“I don’t know what to say,” Zemke said after his victory. “I got second the first year and third last year and there was one spot on the box that I had to get. We’re there. The trophy set is complete.”
The Turning Point: Duhamel crashed in turn one while holding down a 12-second lead on the 44th of 68 laps. An incident in NASCAR Turn Four on the 54th lap brought out the pace car for the first time in five years. Again, it was a debacle as the pace car driver pulled out in front of Yamaha’s Eric Bostrom and Duhamel when he should have been in front of Zemke. It meant that Duhamel and Bostrom were effectively a lap behind with no hope of catching up with nine laps remaining. It also hampered Zemke’s pace as he was surrounded by mid-packers instead of being able to get the jump on the field as the race leader normally can.
Newsworthy: Although he’d crashed in spectacular style in turn one, Duhamel still felt robbed by the pace-car incident that cost him any chance of victory. “I was still in the hunt. I still had a shot at it. The bike was good enough and I was still able to pound out some pretty good lap times.” Duhamel ended up finishing fifth.
With Zemke hampered by lapped riders in the closing stages, Erion Honda’s Josh Hayes put on a charge and only missed out on beating Zemke by 1.5 seconds. Yamaha’s Jason DiSalvo finished third, 14 seconds adrift of Hayes.
The win in the 200 was going to be Zemke’s last of the season in the Formula Xtreme Championship as both he and Duhamel would be concentrating their efforts on the 2006 AMA Superbike Series.
Winner: Steve Rapp, Kawasaki ZX6R
The 2007 Daytona 200 was nothing if unpredictable with privateers sweeping the top four spots, Pirelli earning their first 200 win and a Honda team that was bitterly disappointed. The man with the biggest smile at the end of the day was Kawasaki’s Steve Rapp, the journeyman racer leading an Attack one-two with a 21.9-second win over his teammate Ben Attard.
“It’s crazy I’m telling you,” Rapp said after his first race victory in nearly four years. “I really wouldn’t want any two people up here other than Barney (Michael Barnes, who finished third) and Ben (Attard) because we are teammates and Barney’s a class act.”
The Turning Point: The turning point in this race was the fact that the most powerful team in the paddock ended the day with nothing. American Honda’s Miguel Duhamel and Jake Zemke both ended up coasting to a stop in the same place on the racetrack on different laps – both with dead Honda CBR600RRs. Immediate speculation was that both had ran out of fuel. But they claimed otherwise.
“They drained the tanks and there was four liters of fuel in them,” Zemke said. “(Aaron) Gobert actually came in and pitted, got fuel, went back out and then his quit, so we’re not quite sure what happened.”
“We didn’t run out of fuel,” Duhamel said. “I think we had a fuel-pump problem. There was fuel left in the gas tank – it just didn’t get to the engine.”
Newsworthy: Australian Ben Attard finished second to his teammate Rapp with Michael Barnes taking third, three seconds ahead of 20-year-old Chaz Davies. Barnes dedicated his finish to Vincent Haskovec, the rider he replaced on the team’s Suzuki when Haskovec suffered paralyzing injuries at Infineon Raceway (now Sonoma Raceway) three years earlier.
Yamaha’s Jason DiSalvo finished fifth, the first factory bike, though he was never a threat despite qualifying second to Duhamel, who earned his third Daytona 200 pole position.
Josh Hayes was the first of the Hondas to finish, though he didn’t have the best of days either as he and his Honda CBR600RR ended up sixth.
Rapp’s win was Attack Kawasaki team owner Richard Stanboli’s first Daytona 200 win as team owner. “I think we had our game right,” Stanboli said. “Steve (Rapp) was riding really well, and Kawasaki gave us a good motorcycle. I think it would have been a race to the end if the Hondas kept going. I was really looking forward to racing those Hondas. They’re the guys at the top and that’s who you want to beat racing.”