THE HISTORY BEHIND THE WORLD'S GREATEST MOTORCYCLE RACE

3 March 2000


          THE HISTORY BEHIND THE WORLD'S GREATEST MOTORCYCLE RACE

     PICKERINGTON, Ohio -- The excitement is building for the season-opener

of the 2000 AMA Chevy Trucks U.S. Superbike Championship at the Daytona 200

by Arai. But this world-renowned event did not gain it's status overnight.

For the past 59 years, American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) Pro Racing

has brought top-caliber national and international talent to "The World's

Greatest Motorcycle Race." A brief history of the Daytona 200 and the

personalities which brought the event it's stature follows.

     Motorcycle road racing was one of a number of racing events, including

stock car racing, actively sought by Daytona Beach in the mid-1930s to

enhance the tourist potential of "The World's Most Famous Beach." The

automotive speed-trial/time-trial events that had spotlighted the area

since 1903 departed the beach and "The Birthplace of Speed" in 1935 for the

wide-open spaces of Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats.

     Long distance motorcycle road racing had been a fixture in the

Southeast for five years before making a permanent home in Daytona. The

inaugural running of the Daytona 200 By Arai (or as it was known in the

early years, the "Handlebar Debby" came on Jan. 24, 1937.  The race drew an

unprecedented 120 entries.

     The 3.2 mile course was unique. It featured 1.5 miles of beach and

another 1.5 miles of asphalt public roadway connected at the north and

south ends by banked sand turns. The starting area was at the south turn

with the prime spectator area- the north turn- located nearly in the center

of the beachfront community.

     The organizers miscalculated the time it would take to run the race

and started it at low tide. The entire field had to avoid the rapidly

rising tide to finish the event. Ed Kretz, of Monterey Park, Calif.,

averaged 73.34 mph aboard an American-made Indian motorcycle and won the

inaugural City of Daytona Beach trophy. If a rider won the trophy three

times, he got to keep it. Today, it resides in the trophy case of Dick

Klamfoth, who won in 1949, 1951 and 1952.

     The races continued on the beach through 1941. Then, World War II

intervened. Racing was discontinued by the AMA "in the interest of national

defense"  There were no races during 1942-1946.

     The sixth running of the Daytona 200 took place on Feb. 24, 1947.

Bill France Sr. was the promoter as the record entry of 184 racers returned

to fight for victory on the same 3.2 mile course. Newspaper stories recount

that the "city fathers" asked the townsfolk to open their homes to visiting

motorcyclists because hotel rooms and camping areas were filled to

capacity. "Daytona was the center of American motorcycling and the flag

bedecked streets were packed with motorcycles bearing license plates from

every state and province," noted American Motorcycling Magazine in their

coverage.

     In 1948, a new beach/road course greeted the racers. Daytona Beach and

the surrounding areas were growing and the organizers were forced to move

the circuit down the beach toward Ponce Inlet. The new course measured 4.1

miles with wider, more sweeping turns.

     Floyd Emde won the 1948 running of the Daytona 200 on an Indian

motorcycle. Nearly two years later, his son, Don, was born. In 1972, Yamaha

rider Don Emde won the Daytona 200. They are the only father-son winners in

Daytona 200 history. Beach racing came to an end with the running of the

1960 race.

     Brad Andres, winner of the 1959 race, added a second victory to his

record and those of Harley-Davidson. The 19-year history of beach racing

opened -- and closed -- with victories by riders on American-made

motorcycles. In 1961, the Daytona 200 and its companion events moved to

Daytona International Speedway. The AMA was concerned that the motorcycles

wouldn't be able to maintain the speed necessary to negotiate the 31-degree

banking in the turns of the 2.5 mile trioval. A compromise was struck and a

two-mile course using the infield road course and a part of the

frontstretch was used.

     Harley-Davidson rider Roger Reiman started on the pole and led 99 of

the 100 laps to start what would become a two-wheeled tradition at the

"World Center of Racing." Second place finisher Don Burnett learned a few

lessons in the 1961 race that he put to good use in 1962 to claim victory.

     Beginning with the 1964 race, the course utilized both the infield and

a major portion of the 2.5 mile trioval. Reiman won both the 1964 and 1965

races on a 3.81-mile course.

     Over the years, the length of the road course - due to adding a

"chicane" on the backstretch and a reconfiguration of the infield portion

of the track - has changed by small measurements. The 3.81 mile course was

utilized through the 1972 races, 3.84 miles through 1975, 3.87 miles

through 1984 and 3.56 miles since 1985.

     The list of winners, near-winners and famous names from the Daytona

200 history books reads like a who's who of road racing worldwide. World

road racing champions and champions-to-be Phil Read, Giacomo Agostini,

Jarno Saarinen, Johnny Cecotto, Steve Baker, Kenny  Roberts, Freddie

Spencer, Eddie Lawson, Kevin Schwantz, Fred Merkel, Doug Polen and the

unprecedented winner of the race a record five times Scott Russell, have

been a part of Daytona history. Gary Nixon, Dick Mann, Cal Rayborn, Gene

Romero, Dale Singleton and David Sadowski have also added their names to

the pages as have countless others.

     The 50th running of the Daytona 200 took place on Sunday, March 10,

1991. Miguel Duhamel from Verdun, Quebec, Canada, riding a Honda, was the

winner. Duhamel seemingly has a flair for the dramatic, as he also captured

the 55th running of the Daytona 200 in the closest finish in the race's

history. Duhamel edged five-time Daytona 200 winner Russell by a mere .010

seconds. Duhamel went on to win the 1999 Daytona 200.

     Now a  three-time and reigning Daytona 200 Champ, Duhamel will be

defending his title on Sunday, March 12, in the 59th running of the Daytona

200 By Arai Superbike Classic. For ticket information regarding the Daytona

200 By Arai or any other event during Daytona 200 Week, call the Speedway

ticket office at (904)252-RACE.

     Content for this release provided courtesy of Daytona International

Speedway and Lawrence Media. For immediate post-race results, rider

information, AMA Pro Racing notes and news, check the Pro Racing pages of

AMADirectlink, at www.amaproracing.com

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