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LEXINGTON, OHIO, JULY 11 – “I don’t like settling for second,” said Monster Energy Graves Yamaha’s Josh Herrin on a hot Sunday afternoon at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. After watching him fight for victory in the second of two Daytona SportBike races, that much was clear.
Herrin was in second place two turns from the end of Sunday’s dramatic DSB race when he made a bold move. Leader and title rival Danny Eslick (Suzuki) was on the inside line in the looping right hand Carousel. It isn’t an easy corner for passing and Herrin knew it, but he had to try. A championship was on the line.
“We’re in the points at this point of the season and if I know that it’s not going to hurt us I might settle for second, but I want to win just as bad as everyone else does,” Herrin said. “Coming in second isn’t that good, especially to somebody you’re always trying to beat anyway.”
Herrin had come second in Saturday’s tightly fought 21-lap Daytona SportBike race in which the top four finishers were covered by .357 sec. He was in second for much of the race before Eslick dropped him to third. That didn’t sit well and on the final lap when Eslick ran wide in the turn 11 long right, Herrin scooted by. Now he had one rider, M4 Suzuki’s Dane Westby, in front of him. Herrin tried him in the final corner, a downhill dipping left that leads quickly up a ramp to the finish line, where the physics are perfect for wheelies. But Herrin took himself out of contention with a mental mistake.
“I just waited too long to make my moves,” he said, adding that he wasn’t paying attention to how many laps remained. He thought there were three when there were two and the white flag for the final lap came up quickly. “I was having fun watching the show and, yeah, just waited too long to make my move. If it was a draw, I’d have been dead.”
The pass of Westby in the final corner was something he thought about, “but it was going to end up being dirty so I kinda rolled off. I was thinking of going on the inside through the Carousel, when I should’ve just tried to get as close as I could to him on the outside, then go on the inside. I just panicked a little bit at the end and made a little mistake. I was thinking maybe if I got a good drive I could get on the side of him, as soon as I saw that he was a little bit of ahead of me I just pulled back off.”
Sunday’s race was run under hotter conditions with five riders vying for three podium positions. The only two who appeared to have a shot at winning were Eslick and Herrin. So it was no surprise that Eslick when was in the lead in the Carousel on the final lap Herrin was trying to find a way through.
The Carousel is a mostly one line corner, riders hugging tight to the inside curbing before flopping right to left onto the front stretch. That not only makes it difficult to pass, but guarantees that the track will be clean. Herrin had been using a slightly wider line, not far enough out to be dirty, but enough to use a different arc for a final lap pass.
Herrin made his move well into the looping right hand Carousel, after it flattened out and before it dipped. He was a shadow second and well on the outside of Eslick when he got on the gas. Immediately the rear tire stepped out and his job suddenly became self-preservation.
“I never tried to pass him there, I just was seeing how good the grip was and it was fine, but going midway through the corner on the last lap, I think Danny had maybe a little slide or something and it made me stand the bike up a little bit, go a little wider than I wanted to,” Herrin said. “That’s when I hit the dirt.”
Immediately he was passed by the third placed rider, Tommy Aquino (Yamaha) and two more would edge him as he tried to salvage the podium; both Dane Westby and Cameron Beaubier came past. The top five were covered by .861 sec. Herrin was only .028 sec. from fourth and .054 sec. from the podium.
Now he trails Eslick by 15 points, 214 to 199 with five races remaining. He isn’t ready to panic and is undaunted by the challenge. This is, after all, the same rider who had a 56 point deficit to overcome after the second race at Infineon Raceway.
“It’ll be good for me because I like chasing, I like chasing the race, points, practice, everything,” he said. “I feel comfortable going into the last couple of races. I made a mistake here, learned from it. So hopefully I won’t make the same mistake twice.”