Last year Tommy Hayden attained
one of the goals he set out to accomplish when he began his professional
career, and that was to win a national title. On Thursday, March 10,
Hayden will try to cross off another long-time goal by adding a Daytona
Supersport trophy to his collection. Hayden kicks off his title defense
at Daytona International Speedway in round one of the Pro Honda Oils
Supersport Championship presented by Shoei.
Ever since AMA Supersport began at Daytona in 1987, it has usually been
the most competitive race of Bike Week. The list of past winners reads
like a who's who of racing and includes two world champions. Hayden
knows a good result at Daytona can give the kind of start to a season
that's needed to win the championship.
"I never really had much luck in the Daytona Supersport race," said
Tommy, the oldest of the three racing Hayden brothers from Owensboro,
Ky. "Last year I finally got a podium there and I went on to win the
championship, so it's important to get the season started strong with a
good result at Daytona."
The race will run for the first time on the new 2.95-mile road course.
Hayden likes the new configuration.
"The new track is a lot more technical than the old course," he said. "I
think it's going to reward the better riders. With the old track you
could lose quite a bit in the infield section and still make it up with
all the drafting on the banking. Now you're going to have to be fit and
ready to work really hard in the infield section to do good there."
Hayden hopes to become the third Kawasaki rider to win the Daytona
Supersport final. Miguel Duhamel won the race on a Kawasaki in 1993 and
Doug Chandler accomplished the feat for the team in 1998.
"It would mean a lot to me to win the Supersport race at Daytona,"
Hayden continued. "It's one of those races that's really important to
the manufacturers and if you win it shows that you've done the work you
needed to do in the off season. But the biggest thing is it puts you in
a great position in the championship."
Hayden sees his biggest competition coming from his brother and Kawasaki
teammate Roger Lee Hayden. The youngest Hayden brother finished 2004
with three wins in the final four rounds and was runner up to Tommy in
the final standings. Roger Lee was injured in a bicycle training crash
last month, but is expected to be fit and ready to race by Daytona.
Yamaha returns with the same four riders, Damon Buckmaster, Jason
DiSalvo, Aaron Gobert and Jamie Hacking, who raced for the team in
Supersport last year. DiSalvo, 21, of Stafford, N.Y., is the defending
Daytona Supersport winner. He gave Yamaha its first Daytona Supersport
victory in 14 years and was the fastest of the Yamaha riders in
pre-season testing at the Speedway.
Yoshimura Suzuki fields Texan Ben Spies. Spies was the only Suzuki rider
to score a victory in Supersport last year.
A strong field of privateer teams hopes to challenge the factory riders
at Daytona. Chief among them is Florida's own Michael Barnes on a Prieto
Racing entry. The racing veteran is a former Daytona Supersport winner
and was extremely quick in pre-season testing at Daytona.
Former AMA Superbike Rookie of the Year Geoff May will make his debut on
the Team M4 EMGO Suzuki GSX-R600 at Daytona. Aussie Ben Attard is
expected to be a front-runner on the Attack Kawasaki. Team Hotbodies
Racing's Taylor Knapp turned a lot of heads at the Daytona tire tests
and the young Michigan rider could be ready for a breakthrough season.