Although many racers have maligned the course changes instituted in late '04 at Daytona as killing off the high-speed slipstreaming battles that usually resulted in close multi-rider battles to the finish, several of this year's races were still decided at the line by tactical use of drafting on the high banks. Yoshimura Suzuki's Mat Mladin continued his winning ways by cleverly letting his teammate Ben Spies charge past coming out of the chicane on the last lap so that he could draft past at the line to steal the Superbike victory, while Yamaha's Jamie Hacking stalked his teammate Jason DiSalvo for the duration of the Superstock event until the final run to the finish. Daytona will always be Daytona, and despite all the course modifications and repavings, the venerable track's character will always remain-for good and bad.
But it was one of those negative aspects of racing at Daytona that reared its head when a crash caused race control to bring out the infamous pace car during the 200. The last time a pace car came out during the Daytona 200 (during the '01 event) it caused a horrendous pileup on the back straight due to the relatively slow-moving vehicle pulling out in front of the lead pack of superbikes as they were steaming off the west banking at upwards of 160 mph. Its appearance during the '06 event was no less controversial, as the pace car mistakenly pulled out in front of the wrong rider and stayed there during the duration of its run, causing confusion and frustration among riders and teams both during and after the race. While the AMA claimed the mistake had no bearing on the outcome of the race based on lap times, the fact remains that racing is a sport you can never predict, and a gaffe of this magnitude in a professional series is inexcusable.
The previous few months hadn't exactly been the brightest for AMA Pro Racing. Controversy had already been swirling around the organization from a number of off-season happenings, including a contentious decision to approve Buell's new limited-production XB-RR racebike for the Formula Xtreme class (and, thus, the Daytona 200), despite the fact that it is not a street-legal production machine, as required by the rulebook. There was also a major reorganization of management that began with the firing of former CEO Scott Hollingsworth, followed by the dissolution of the AMA Pro Racing board of directors and the resignation of AMA Pro Racing director of competition, Merrill Vanderslice. The changes have many hopeful that the organization steering American professional motorcycle roadracing will now be on a more purposeful and far less indecisive path, but until the AMA finishes revamping Pro Racing's management structure (at press time, the new "racing committees" that were to replace the Pro Racing board of directors still hadn't been chosen, several months after the initial announcement), a cloud of uncertainty will still hang over it and the racing series it oversees.
Nonetheless, Daytona still provided an abundance of exciting racing. Here's Sport Rider's pictorial chronicle of the weekend's events.