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Westby ready to kick off a new era of AMA Road Racing on his GEICO Honda
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 11) -- A runner-up to the AMA GoPro Daytona SportBike championship in 2012, rising star Dane Westby arrives at the 72nd annual Daytona 200 intent on making a statement on his brand-new GEICO Honda CBR600.
Westby and team owner Chris Ulrich are fashioning a bit of road racing history this weekend as they bring Honda back into the paddock for the first time since 2009. After a career season where he won a race and reached the podium 10 times on a Suzuki, Westby understands the trepidation most people have about Honda's return, but off-season testing already has allayed all of his fears.
"My questions were answered after about three laps," Westby said. "I love the motorcycle. I was out there riding and just settled in right away. It was like, 'alright cool. It's going to be good.' I mean, it's a Honda. It's what we all expect.
"This crew worked so hard and everyone gets along so well that it has made this transition very easy. There was a lot to do but they handled it like pros. I know that everyone is questioning why we made the switch but I believe they'll get an idea of how we're going to run this year in Daytona. We are ready for this fight."
A track day at JenningsGP in North Florida Monday yielded impressive lap times, many of which were considerably quicker than Westby posted on last year's bike.
"I was half a second quicker right out of the trailer," Westby said. "There were no SportBikes there but the KTM Superbikes were on track and I was able to run around with them. The CBR600 was just silky smooth. It's so easy to ride. I can't wait for Thursday to get here so I can get out there with everyone else."
Ulrich agreed, "We had good tests and our level of confidence is high," he said. "We're all very excited to start this new adventure with Honda. Many of the guys on this team got their starts with Honda so this was familiar territory for them. Everyone is pumped up about this season."
Aside from the new equipment, Westby has accepted the pressure of representing a company as large as GEICO, which has fielded road racing champions for four straight seasons. GEICO also serves as title sponsor to the entire AMA Road Racing Series.
"I know how big this is for my career and how important this race team is for the entire series," Westby said. "I'm meeting the challenge head-on and I'm really excited and honored that I'll be carrying the GEICO flag this year and beyond."
The Daytona SportBike class will begin practicing for the 200 with two sessions at 12 and 3:55 p.m., Thursday. Qualifying rounds are scheduled for 8:45 a.m. and 1:10 p.m., Friday, with the 200 slated to start at 1 p.m., Saturday. SPEED TV will air the event in its entirety.
Please visit www.TeamHammer.com for more information.