Craig Murto: Daytona’s Bike Week shines

Last weekend was full of great racing, close finishes, and some real disappointment.

The best racing was in Daytona on two wheels as part of Bike Week.

Flat track motorcycles took to the Daytona flat track on Thursday and Friday. Feature races in the headlining Grand National 1 division were won by Steve Bonsey and Kenny Coolbeth.

From the short dirt track to the road course on the big track, 57 motorcycles took part in the 74th running of the Daytona 200, the oldest and most prestigious motorcycle race in the United States.

The race almost didn’t happen this year due to sanction issues. And for a while it wasn’t clear whether the race would be for the 600cc Sport Bikes or the 1,000cc Superbikes. In the end the 600s took to the grid, and Danny Eslick pulled a slingshot drafting move past Josh Herrin on the final turn of the final lap to take his second Daytona 200 win in a row.

It was by far the best race of the weekend that included one of the best stories. Third place went to Atlanta native Geoff May, 34. May raced in World Superbike last season for a struggling team that finally folded. A deal he had for a ride this season fell through, so he used GoFundMe.com to raise enough money for the 200. He qualified on the pole and led a lot of laps before his third-place finish. Hopefully the solid run opens up opportunities for May for the rest of the year.

Supercross competitors were in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. It was another KTM sweep, as Marvin Musquin won in the 250s and Ryan Dungey won on his 450.

Motocross racing starts at Shenandoah Speedway on May 2, following a May 1 practice day. The track’s paved oval opens April 11.

Hagerstown Speedway finally got its opening race in, and Kyle Hardy grabbed the $3,000-to-win late Model race. His win was not without controversy, however, as on the final lap he dove in deep and made contact with Walker Arthur. Arthur repaid the contact after the checkered flag, prompting officials to score him last. Second was awarded to Jamie Lathroum and Roy Deese Jr. grabbed third. Paul Cursey scored his 63rd career feature in his 30th year of racing by taking the Late Model Sportsman feature.

Also locally, Winchester Speedway opens its gates on Saturday night for a 30-lap Super late Model feature. And don’t forget we have many tracks within driving distance opening, including South Boston Speedway, Natural Bridge Speedway, Eastside Speedway, Potomac Speedway, Southside Speedway, Motor Mile Speedway, Virginia Motor Speedway, Lincoln Speedway, and that doesn’t include drag strips such as Summerduck or road courses such as Summit Point.

NASCAR’s Races at Phoenix were OK. Joey Logano won the Xfinity Series race and Kevin Harvick won in Sprint Cup. On paper they dominated, but the races weren’t bad at all.

By contrast, the Formula One race in Melbourne, Australia, was just sad. The current formula is horrible. It is too complicated, too expensive, and so convoluted that even the best engineers in racing can’t get a grip on them, save Mercedes. The race only started 15 cars; if I had bought a ticket, I would have been angry. In fact, I’m going to suggest now that if you considered going to Montreal or Austin to see them this year, wait for another year when they have a better set of rules and guarantee enough cars on the grid. Oh, Lewis Hamilton dominated.

Formula E ran in Miami, and actually provided the most entertaining open-wheel race of the weekend. It takes a while to get used to race cars that sound like big slot cars. And there’s got to be a better way than swapping cars; what about two shorter races, or swapping batteries instead so it seems like a “normal” pit stop. Allowing fans to vote on drivers who get a boost of current is just gimmicky. But the race in Miami was very entertaining. Nico Prost out-raced Scott Speed for the win.

And finally, I need to share some off-season discoveries that will make the season much more pleasurable. If you’re grabbing a bite to eat on your way to the track, Sal’s Italian Bistro in Edinburg is fantastic. And if you’re passing through Front Royal, check out Crazy Carl’s subs. Races sometimes disappoint, but these establishments will keep you satisfied.

Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.