AMA: Can Russell Make it Six in Daytona?
26 February 1999PICKERINGTON, Ohio -- Having dominated the Daytona 200 for the better part of the last decade, Scott Russell has earned the nickname "Mr. Daytona." A former World Superbike rider who annually returned home to race in the Daytona 200, Russell recently signed a two-year contract with Harley-Davidson to compete full-time in the American Motorcyclist Associations (AMA) MBNA Superbike series. Russell will debut with his new team on March 7, and attempt to capture his sixth victory at the 58th running of the worlds most famous motorcycle race, on the 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.
Should Russell win this years race, he will be the first rider since 1969 to do so on a Harley-Davidson, when Cal Rayborn last took the checkers aboard the marque.
Russell has spent much of the past two months getting his new Harley-Davidson VR1000 Superbike ready for the 1999 Daytona 200 by Arai -- the season-opener of the 1999 MBNA Superbike series presented by Parts Unlimited. Russell has logged countless laps since last December at Daytona, Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, Calif., and Phoenix International Raceway in Arizona.
Harley-Davidson has stepped up its racing effort by securing Russell, who is the only rider to ever win the Daytona 200 five times -- in 1992, 1994, 1995, 1997 and 1998. The two times Russell didn't win during that span, he finished in second -place. "I've enjoyed a tremendous amount of success at Daytona. It's one of my favorite tracks. I know it's going to be hard this year, but if I didn't think I could win, I wouldn't be on a Harley," Russell said.
Russell joins Pascal Picotte, who is returning for his second season aboard the VR1000. "We liked what Pascal did last year and we look for him to be stronger out of the box, especially with Scott as his teammate," said Art Gompper, marketing director for Harley-Davidson.
After taking his first Daytona 200 victory, Russell went on to take the AMA Superbike title in 1992. He jumped to the World Superbike circuit the following year and won that series championship as a rookie and finished second in World Superbike in 1994. He then moved to the Lucky Strike Suzuki Grand Prix team in 1995 to replace legend Kevin Schwantz. After a two-year stint with Suzuki, he returned to World Superbike and rode with Yamaha for the past two seasons.
This season will be different, as Russell won't have to pack his bags after the Daytona 200 to join the world circuit. "He's really happy to be back home so he can set up camp and not have to travel the world like a gypsy," said Gompper. Russell agrees. "I'm happy to be here," he said. "A four-hour plane trip is the longest one I'll have to make racing here. I'm looking forward to that.
Russell dominated the 1998 Daytona 200, leading 53 of 57 laps while averaging 111.783 mph, a record for Daytona's current course configuration.
The only rider within range of challenging Russell was Miguel Duhamel -- a two-time Daytona 200 winner -- who beat Russell in the 1996 race. Last year, Russell and Duhamel quickly pulled away from the 80-bike field and were jockeying for the lead, when Duhamel lost control on Lap 20 while attempting to pass Russell going into the chicane. Russell, riding a factory-supported Yamaha, cruised on to the checkered flag before 40,000 fans.
Doug Chandler, riding the Muzzy Kawasaki, finished second last year, followed by Jamie Hacking on a Yamaha, Mathew Mladin on a Suzuki, and defending MBNASuperbike champ Ben Bostrom aboard a Honda. Chandler, who has four top-five finishes in the 200, was also second to Russell in 1997.
The 1999 Daytona 200 by Arai will be broadcast tape-delay at 5:30pm (eastern time) Sunday, March 7 on ESPN2. Check local listings, as broadcast times may vary. For immediate post-race results, rider information, Daytona Bike Week updates and AMA Pro Racing notes and news, check the Pro Racing pages of AMADirectlink, at www.ama-cycle.org.