Lady luck and the Daytona Draft intervened in the closing stages of the EBC Brakes Sportbike race at Daytona, thwarting what had looked to be a certain trip to winner’s circle for Team Valvoline EMGO Suzuki’s Josh Hayes.
The race was red-flagged and restarted after multiple pile-ups on the first lap, which was lucky for Hayes, who had taken to the grass to avoid a melee, regaining the track in 20th place.
But Hayes shot into second immediately at the restart, then led across the line on most of the early race laps as he and another rider shot out ahead of the pack. But a pursuing group of three riders teamed up in the draft to run down the lead pair late in the race, turning the battle for first into a five-way dogfight. Entering the Daytona chicane for the final time, Hayes was in prime drafting position, planning to use the four-bike tow to draft into first at the finish line. But the rider immediately ahead of Hayes hesitated and balked Hayes, who ran wide, lost the drive–and the draft–and ended up a frustrated fifth.
Teammate Grant Lopez finished sixth in his first race since major leg surgery during the off season.
A bright spot was the fact that the track announcers consistently used the phrase “Valvoline Suzuki” when referring to Hayes and Lopez–while not referring to competitors’ team names at all. Which shows that the team’s long association with Valvoline and the team’s long history of running at the front has penetrated the consciousness of Daytona.