Hal’s H-D/Buell-Hal’s Speed Shop rider Dan Bilansky executed a perfect last-lap pass to win the American Sportbike Racing Association (ASRA) Thunderbike National Championship at the 23rd Annual Daytona Race of Champions at Daytona International Speedway. Bilansky, riding a Buell Firebolt XB12R, passed BMW rider Nate Kern to win the Thunderbike National race by about one bike length to claim the season championship by a single point. It was the third ASRA Thunderbike win of the season for Bilansky.
Bilansky, from Waukesha, Wis., arrived at Daytona for the eighth and final round of the ASRA Thunderbike season in third place, trailing Veatch Motorsports rider Dave Estok by 27 points and H-D/Buell of Frederick rider Bryan Bemisderfer by 16 points. To win the championship, 28-year-old Bilansky would need to win the Daytona race and have Estok and Bemisderfer fail to finish, a turn of events that seemed unlikely.
Qualifying for the Thunderbike National was cancelled due to scheduling problems on Saturday, which put points-leader Estok on the pole. At the start of the 10-lap national, Bilansky and Kern pulled away together, with Kern officially leading the first lap. Bilansky passed for the lead on lap two, but Kern passed the Buell rider back on lap three. Bemisderfer and Estok were not far behind, but both suddenly dropped out on lap four, Estok with a mechanical problem and Bemisderfer with a dead battery.
Bilansky rode the last six laps of the race glued to Kern’s tail and in position to attempt a drafting pass on the long final straight leading to the finish. He timed the pass perfectly and beat Kern to the line for the win. Kern was later disqualified for failing to report directly to tech inspection following the race. Bimota rider Chris Boy officially finished second, followed by Ducati rider Tommy Eckfeldt in third. Appleton Buell/Hoban Brothers Racing rider Jeff Johnson was fourth on a Buell Firebolt, followed by Buell riders Joe Rozynski (Sound Waves/Hal’s Speed Shop) and Andrew Hamblin (Custom World.com/Hal’s Speed Shop), and Ducati rider Rhiannon Lucente in seventh position. Buell riders Sam Rozynski (Sound Waves/Hal’s Speed Shop), Tim Hall (Jim’s H-D/Buell) and Anthony Caligiuri (Liberty H-D/Buell) rounded out the top ten.
Bilansky ends the season with 199 Thunderbike points, one point ahead of Estok and 11 points ahead of Bemisderfer. Sam Rozynski is fourth with 159 points, followed by Kern with 134 points. The ASRA Thunderbike title is the first national championship for the 28-year-old Bilansky, who finished second in Thunderbike points in 2005.
"Because of the points situation, we really didn’t come to Daytona trying to make anything happen," said Bilansky. "During the race I didn’t realize that Estok and Bemisderfer were out, and I didn’t know I needed to win to take the championship. My Buell was performing flawlessly today, and I was just going for one more win to end the season."
While he won three races in 2006 and finished on the podium at two others, Bilansky also failed to finish three Thunderbike events, including two in a row in the middle of the season.
"That was a discouraging stretch, but our problems were really just racer’s bad luck," said Bilansky. "We bounced back and won the last two races of the year. But I might not have made it to Daytona without some generous last-minute financial support from my family, friends and some local businesses. My dad even drove my truck down here for me."
Bilansky also won the five-lap CCS Expert Thunderbike National Championship on Friday at Daytona in a battle of CCS regional winners.
Buell Team on MOTO-ST Podium
On Oct. 21 at Daytona International Speedway, James Gang Racing (Paul James, John Fox and Greg Avello), sponsored by Hal’s Speed Shop/Bruce Rossmeyer’s Daytona Buell/Kegel Motorcycle Co., raced a Buell XB12R Firebolt to a second-place finish (182 laps, 21st place overall) in the Grand Sports Twins (GST) class during the inaugural SunTrust MOTO-ST Series 8 Hours At Daytona endurance event. The class was won by Team Ducati Toronto (Pat Barnes, Robert Trottier and Matt McBride) aboard a Ducati (207 laps, 14th overall). Buell is the presenting sponsor of the MOTO-ST SuperSport Twins (SST) class and offered $10,000 of contingency support to privateer Buell racers aboard XB and XBRR model motorcycles at the inaugural Daytona event.