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Jul 17, 2014

Gagne Holds Slim AMA Pro Daytona SportBike Championship Point Lead Heading Into Mid-Ohio

Jake Gagne (32). Photo by Brian J. Nelson/AMA Pro Racing.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - The AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike season got a little crazier last weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, and the Mid-Ohio races should amp things up even more. The Buckeye SuperBike Weekend at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course sees a tighter championship and the streak of a different rider taking charge at each round is on the line. With just four races left in 2014, 24 points separate the top five riders and the ultracompetitive class is yet to disappoint.

Last weekend, Jake Lewis took his first GoPro Daytona SportBike win on his No. 85 MotoSport.com/Meen Yamaha YZF-R6 at Laguna Seca, hammering out a tough triumph from the front. Lewis had been knocking on victory's door the past couple of seasons and was finally able to achieve the feat and answer questions of when he would take the next step.

On Friday, Lewis was quickest, but in final qualifying, he dropped to fifth. A great start put him back at the front and he led all 20 laps of the sole AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike race in California.

"Qualifying fifth, I was a little bit disappointed with that, but I knew it was going to be a heck of a race," said Lewis. "I was sitting on the grid thinking, 'I'm going to win this race,' because last year I was so close to winning. I got off to a good start, went into the lead in turn 2 and never looked back. That's been my weakness throughout my career - looking back - so I just put my head down and stayed focused and clicked off lap after lap and got into a good rhythm and brought home the win."

Lewis jumped to within five points of Jake Gagne and his No. 32 RoadRace Factory/Red Bull Yamaha YZF-R6 for the points lead and the Kentuckian caries momentum into Mid-Ohio.

Gagne came up short at Laguna Seca in his race-long battle with Danny Eslick, pilot of the No. 69 Riders Discount Racing Triumph Daytona 675R, for the final spot on the podium. The Californian made numerous attempts at a pass, but he couldn't make anything stick, and an especially racy Eslick wasn't to be denied.

Gagne lost points to both Lewis and Eslick (now nine points back) but his consistently excellent season has earned him a small margin in the point standings.

If a fourth place result is a "down" race for the points leader, it only shows how good Gagne has been in 2014.

Eslick opened the season on fire with the DAYTONA 200 victory. While he has earned valuable points with solid finishes this year, his spirited riding at Laguna Seca put him back on the podium for the first time since March. With the twisty Mid-Ohio course sharing some characteristics with Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Eslick and Triumph could once again fight for the podium.

With two previous crowns in the class, Eslick's presence can't be ignored.

JD Beach aboard the No. 6 Yamaha Extended Service/Monster Energy/Graves/Yamaha YZF-R6 was also very good in California. He took his third second place finish of the year last weekend, having been runner-up in Elkhart Lake and Birmingham as well. Beach was close, but he couldn't quite top Lewis and finished 1.563 seconds back.

Beach, still looking for his first class win, would like nothing better than to join Lewis in the ranks of AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike winners.

Dane Westby on the No. 00 Yamalube/Westby Racing Yamaha YZF-R6 earned a hard-fought fifth in Monterey. Westby passed Garrett Gerloff and his No. 8 Yamaha Extended Service/Monster Energy/Graves/Yamaha YZF-R6 to take the spot.

Westby was disappointed after the race and said he really didn't get rolling until halfway through the contest. Gerloff had passed "The Wolverine," but Westby recovered and regrouped to take his fourth top five in a row.

He now finds himself alive in the championship heading to the scene of two previous victories. The Oklahoman is 25 points out with four races left. However, Westby might be the smart choice in Ohio given his previous success there.

Gerloff faced an uncertain Laguna Seca, having crashed hard in the two previous races. He broke his arm in Alabama but was able to put in a solid race despite the injury.

Gerloff, too, is yet to win in AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike but the factory Yamaha pilot is always a contender.

Jake Zemke on the No. 98 GEICO Motorcycle Road Racing Honda CBR600RR is seventh in points, having taken advantage of consistent results throughout 2014. The veteran and his team continue to develop the Honda middleweight machine and churn out solid performances. Zemke has finished every race between 11th and 7th in 2014 and earned ninth in Monterey.

Like Zemke, Benny Solis aboard the No. 35 Team H35 Yamaha YZF-R6 has been consistent this season. Solis earned the top ten every race since Elkhart Lake and the young rider has put together his best season since joining the class. In California, Solis emerged as the rider to top a highly contested fight for the final spot in the top ten.

Kyle Wyman and his No. 33 Kyle Wyman Racing Yamaha YZF-R6 was another rider in that pack. Wyman was 16th in California as he fought in a ten-rider melee going for 10th. The New Yorker is still ninth in points.

Jason DiSalvo on the No. 40 Castrol/Triumph/Sportbike Track Time Triumph Racing Daytona 675 earned pole for the Laguna Seca race. One of the best qualifiers in AMA Pro Racing, DiSalvo came up big to top Gagne and Beach as the only three riders who dropped into the 1-minute, 26-second range.

In the race, DiSalvo wasn't able to stick with the leaders but earned seventh ahead of Blake Young riding the No. 79 GN Gonzales Racing Yamaha YZF-R6. The result was enough to help DiSalvo pull ahead of Young by a single point for tenth in the standings.

Class rookie Tomas Puerta on the No. 12 RoadRace Factory/Red Bull Yamaha YZF-R6 is 12th in points. His Laguna Seca was disappointing, though. Puerta led the group fighting for tenth heading into the last corner, but the Colombian ended up on the ground when the pack met a lapped rider as others made their moves.

The Buckeye SuperBike Weekend is a two-day event, so the 23 riders pre-entered and their teams will need to be prepared to get up to speed quickly while avoiding trouble. The 19-lap Race 1 is scheduled for 3 p.m. (noon PT) on Saturday, while the Sunday finale begins at 2 p.m. (11 a.m. PT).

Top 10 AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike results from

Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca

1. Jake Lewis (Yamaha)

2. JD Beach (Yamaha)

3. Danny Eslick (Triumph)

4. Jake Gagne (Yamaha)

5. Dane Westby (Yamaha)

6. Garrett Gerloff (Yamaha)

7. Jason DiSalvo (Triumph)

8. Blake Young (Yamaha)

9. Jake Zemke (Honda)

10. Benny Solis (Yamaha)

AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike points standings

1. Jake Gagne 139

2. Jake Lewis 134

3. Danny Eslick 130

4. JD Beach 126

5. Dane Westby 115

6. Garrett Gerloff 81

7. Jake Zemke 80

8. Benny Solis 77

9. Kyle Wyman 74

10. Jason DiSalvo 67

How to Watch

FansChoice.tv is the official home for live streaming coverage of AMA Pro Road Racing and AMA Pro Flat Track events in 2014. The site also provides coverage of IMSA's development and single-make series, and NASCAR's touring and weekly series.