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Feb 28, 2007

Daytona 200 Preview: Duhamel Seeking Sixth Win, Picotte To Race Suzuki, Schwantz To Drive Pace Car

DUHAMEL LOOKING TO CAPTURE RECORD SIXTH DAYTONA 200

PICKERINGTON, Ohio (February 28, 2007) Veteran road racer Miguel Duhamel has the opportunity to make history next week at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla., by winning his record-setting sixth Daytona 200 by Honda, the first round of the 2007 Lockhart Phillips USA Formula Xtreme Series. The historic event is scheduled for Saturday, March 10 and caps off Daytona's famed Bike Week.

Duhamel leads a long list of potential winners of this year's race. His Honda teammate Jake Zemke is the defending race winner and with the confidence of last year's victory Zemke is certainly in contention to earn back-to-back victories. Another rider to watch from the Honda camp is Erion Racing's Josh Hayes. Hayes was runner up to Zemke last year and went on to win the 2006 Lockhart Phillips USA Formula Xtreme Series title. Hayes' teammate Australian Aaron Gobert could also break through and become only the second Australian to win the Daytona 200.

"I think I can speak for the whole team and say that we're really hungry to win this year's Daytona 200," said Duhamel, who first won the event in 1991. "Fortunately Honda has come out with the new CBR600RR. That bike is awesome and makes our odds very good."

Duhamel agrees with racing pundits who suggest that his own Honda teammates will be his strongest competitors in the field, but he also recognizes that the other manufacturers are looking to knock Honda from the throne.

"All the Honda boys will be on the same bike so they'll be really fast," Duhamel explained. "And then you'll have the riders from Yamaha, Kawasaki, Suzuki and Ducati who should be really strong as well. They might pop their head in there and surprise some people. But that's the nature of the Daytona 200, you can always expect surprises from that race."

If Duhamel manages to win he will not only become the first six-time Daytona 200 winner - at 38, he'd also make history in being the oldest rider ever to win the race. Dick Mann is currently the oldest winner on record in the 200. He was just shy of 37 years old when he won the race in 1971.

Jake Zemke returns as the defending winner of the 200.

"The Daytona 200, as anyone can tell you if you grew up racing, you knew all about it," Zemke said after winning last year. "It doesn't matter (even) if you're a motocrosser. Motocrossers know about the Daytona 200. Everybody knows about the Daytona 200. So it's something, as a kid that you look at the names on the list of the winners of the 200, and it's a who's who list, and I'm proud to put my name up there."

Honda is hoping to become the first manufacturer in over 20 years to win the Daytona 200 three consecutive times.

Of course rival Yamaha would like to end that streak and is mounting a serious effort to that end. Jason DiSalvo is considered by many to be Yamaha's best hope to break Honda's recent domination. In his first appearance in the 200 DiSalvo earned an impressive podium finish in the race last year.

DiSalvo had an interesting perspective on the unique challenges posed by the Daytona 200.

"I see now the whole thing about being a rookie and coming to this race," commented DiSalvo. "A couple of times last year things were going on out there and I'm thinking 'What the heck's going on? Am I supposed to pit now?' At the pit, you don't know if you're taking a long time in the pits, or if you've come in fast or not or if you got out fast, or if you're doing good on cold tires with a full tank of gas. All you hear are the air guns going and the bike going up and down, and all you're concentrating on is trying to get a drink and maybe wipe your face off (and) if the gas tank is filled by the time you're blowing out of the pit. It was definitely a new experience. I have all of that behind me now and I think I can concentrate on trying to win the thing this year."

Kawasaki is putting forth a serious effort with Attack Performance riders Ben Attard and Steve Rapp. Both are hoping to give Kawasaki its first win in the 200 since 1995 when Scott Russell rode one of the green machines to victory.

Suzuki pegs most of its hopes of winning the 200 on Michael Barnes of Team M4 EMGO Suzuki. The veteran Barnes is hoping to follow the path taken by the last Floridian to win the race, John Ashmead, by overcoming all the odds to take a surprise victory. Suzuki's other marquee rider in the 200 is Canadian Pascal Picotte, a former Daytona 200 pole winner who will ride a Suzuki Canada entry in the race.

Ducati has never won the Daytona 200 in spite of the maker having some of the sport's greatest names entered in past years. That makes Larry Pegram's task a daunting one, but if the veteran racer from Ohio, could pull off the victory in the 200, it would be one of the biggest stories in the history of the race, which first ran in 1937.

Daytona historically attracts international entries and this year is no different. Bostjan Skubic, of Slovenia, will race a Yamaha in the 200 and Irishmen Michael Pearson (Chris Dowds Racing Yamaha) and Declan Swanton (McKenny Racing Honda) are also entered to compete.

Former Daytona 200 winner and World Champion Kevin Schwantz will drive the pace car in this year's event.

This year's 66th running of the Daytona 200 by Honda as well as final qualifying will be televised live on SPEED. The race is slated to take the green flag at 2:00 pm EST on Saturday, March 10.

About AMA Racing

AMA Racing is the competition arm of the American Motorcyclist Association and is the leading sanctioning body for motorcycle sport in the United States. Its professional properties include the Amp'd Mobile AMA Supercross Series, the AMA Toyota Motocross Championship presented by FMF, the AMA Superbike Championship presented by Parts Unlimited, the AMA Ford Quality Checked Flat Track Championship, the AMA Supermoto Championship and the AMA Pro ATV Championship. In amateur and pro-am competition, AMA Racing sanctions over 4000 events in 24 different disciplines and supports over 110 thousand active members. For more information about professional racing, visit www.amaproracing.com.