DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Brandon Paasch, at only 19 years old, used an old, veteran move common to Daytona Int’l Speedway winners to capture Saturday’s 79th Daytona 200 in breathtaking fashion.
After running second for most of the last portion of the race, Paasch reeled in leader Sean Dylan Kelly using the draft and calculated a perfect slingshot move at the entrance of the tri-oval as the duo came to the checkered flag, winning by just .031 of a second.
Paasch took home the traditional Rolex Cosmograph Daytona watch and the title at America’s most historic motorcycle road race during the 80th annual Bike Week.
“I have been dreaming about that pass since 2019,” said Paasch, who finished fifth that year in the Daytona 200. “For me to see it coming to fruition, it is kinda crazy. Somehow we pulled it off. I just kept digging and my hope was to run him down. It was kinda surreal for me at the end to cross the line first.
“It just doesn’t feel real right now. I am at a loss for words.”
Battling an ankle injury and off his bike for at least two weeks, Paasch (R6 600 Yamaha) edged Kelly (GSXR 600 Suzuki) and Tyler O’Hara (ZX6R 636 Kawasaki) in the 54-rider field that put on a show with plenty of side-by-side racing and at times riders running three- and four-wide.
Paasch posted both the best lap (1:49.752) and best speed (115.132).
The race winner was riding with a purpose this weekend. He pledged half of his winnings to rider Lloyd Bayley’s family.
Bayley, from DeLand, Fla., died tragically during an ASRA sanctioned motorcycle race at Homestead-Miami Speedway late last year. Bayley was known as “Ironman” in ASRA and served as a mentor to Paasch early in his racing career.
Kelly, who finished second in the last Daytona 200 held in 2019, was dominant and led the most laps but came up just feet short at the finish.
“The 200 is never easy and this one definitely hurt the most,” said Kelly, who was just .213 seconds short in ’19 to winner Kyle Wyman. “Getting passed today right at the finish line after 200 miles is something tough. It’s hard for it to sink in, but at the end of the day we did our best, we did everything we could. We led a lot of laps today. Hopefully I will get another opportunity to run the 200 and we’re going to fight for that Rolex.”
Sanctioned by the American SportBike Racing Ass’n, the Daytona 200 showcased 600cc sportbikes on the Speedway’s 3.51-mile Daytona Road Course in a 57-lap, 200-mile endurance race.
Its roots go back to the sands of Daytona Beach where they began racing on a 4.2-mile shoreline course in 1937 before moving the event to Daytona Int’l Speedway and incorporating the high banks of the World Center of Racing in 1961.
Wyman’s quest for consecutive wins ended early while he was running in the top three but lost control on lap 18. His front wheel touched the rear wheel of a lap rider between turns two and three.
Fourth went to Michael Barnes, while four-time event winner Danny Eslick finished fifth as he attempted to become the third five-time champion of the Daytona 200.
The Daytona 200 was the final major race of the 80th annual Bike Week.