DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 1, 2013) - It seems when a racer is as versatile and experienced as GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro Road Racing veteran Steve Rapp, it doesn’t take a full weekend to work up to competitive speed.
In fact, if the results of the last two rounds of the AMA Pro Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson Series are anything to go by, that’s a pretty significant understatement.
Rapp, who has been performing double duty as a pilot — both on two wheels and with a commercial airline — has had to abbreviate his race weekends in order to fit it all in. At Road America, he missed an entire day of practice and qualifying and still scored a runaway triumph.
The story at Barber Motorsports Park for the Triumph SuperBike Classic presented by America’s First Federal Credit Union was much the same, as the Suburban Harley-Davidson star missed the opening free practice but still managed to not only earn a spot on the front-row, but once again score a dominant breakaway victory.
Defending series champion Michael Barnes, who qualified on pole, pushed Rapp over the race’s opening half as they ripped away from the rest of the field. However, the Californian ultimately broke Barney’s pursuit and powered to a 5.454-second victory in a class that more typically measures wins in fractions of a second.
Despite the blisteringly hot conditions, Rapp circulated well under the existing track record to escape from Barnes, posting a benchmark lap of 1:34.628.
After the race Rapp said of his impressive pace, “It didn’t feel faster than qualifying, especially with the heat out there. I didn’t think that was possible. But I had a clean track in front of me and I was just able to get a good flow going and ride a little bit better lines. In the race everyone has that extra gear they find… extra motivation or something. I saw the times and I was kind of surprised, but the bike felt good and under control the whole time. It was just a good race.”
Rapp also spoke about his surprising season with the Suburban Harley-Davidson crew: “The guys from Suburban Harley-Davidson — from the first time I rode the bike, there’s just something about it. The way we have it set up and the special things they’ve done for me as a rider, like handlebars and the seat and stuff like that, it just feels so good I feel like I can ride it a lot harder.
“I started the season with really nothing going on and Joe from Suburban Harley called me and said if I wanted to come out for Daytona we’d at least get one race in. I said ‘that’d be great’ and it’s just kept getting better. If we can get the whole season in, that’d be great. It’s been an unexpected welcome, for sure.”
While Barnes was unable to match Rapp over the full race distance, he put up a spirited fight. His clear runner-up result also sees him hold onto the points lead — albeit by just a single point over the fast-rising Rapp, 63-62.
Barnes, who despite his career credentials and status as reigning champion, has had to contend with even more team turmoil, was grateful that the Spyke’s Harley-Davidson squad recently stepped up to support his attempt to successfully defend the coveted #1 plate.
Barnes said, “I’m pretty happy. Steve really set the bar at Elkhart and I wanted to keep him as honest as possible. Him missing the first practice — I knew he’d come right out and consistently pick up speed. I knew he was going to be there and I didn’t count out Tyler (O’Hara) either — he’s been known to turn it around on race day. He passed me down into Charlotte’s Web on the first lap.
“I just tried to hang with Steve the best I could but he was just getting me by tenths every lap. Second was the best I could do today.
“I just have to thank the Spyke’s Harley-Davidson crew. These guys have really stepped up to help me out when I’m in a really bad situation. It seems like a reoccurring thing with me. I just want to find a nice home and stay there and these Spyke’s guys are awesome and the bikes are awesome. I’m just happy to be up here. I love this track and the fans. I’m just glad we got out of here with no heat stroke.”
While Eco-Fuel Saver/Scrubblade’s Tyler O’Hara was unable to push for the win this weekend, he did manage to claim the final spot on the podium at Barber Motorsports Park thanks to a dramatic last-lap maneuver past Rapp’s Suburban Harley-Davidson teammate, Ben Carlson.
O’Hara commented, “It was a great race. Benny and I were just battling back and forth. (Rapp and Barnes) were riding awesome and just sort of walked away. I didn’t have anything for them up front, but anytime you can get on a podium with these guys it’s pretty special; they’re both good guys who ride hard.
“I’ve got to give up to my whole team this weekend. We kind of had some mechanical issues — we blew up the ‘B’ bike and had to rebuild that and the transmission broke on the ‘A’ bike. We had some stuff to work on this weekend, but to come out of here with a podium is really good on the ‘B’ bike.
“I had a lot of fun out there — that’s one of the most fun races I’ve had in a while.”
Harv’s Harley-Davidson’s Travis Wyman settled into a steady run to close out the top-five after flashing an possible podium challenge in the race’s opening stages.
A massive H-D brawl took place behind Wyman to settle sixth through 14th. That battle was ultimately won by Mob Racing’s Shane Narbonne with Longevity Racing’s Barrett Long and H&S Distributor’s Nicholas Hansen hot in pursuit.
ChiliPepperRacing.com’s Ricky Parker, and Racing For A Wish’s Adam Raffe completed the top ten.