DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Suzuki rider Sean Dylan Kelly, a 16-year-old making his DAYTONA 200 debut, became the youngest pole winner in the race’s 78-year history on Friday, posting a fast lap of 115.859 mph at Daytona International Speedway.
On Saturday, tradition will be renewed on the 3.51-mile DIS road course with the green flag at 1 p.m. (ET) for the 57-lap/200-mile event that will wrap up the 78th Bike Week At DAYTONA. Leading the three-abreast field will be a front row of Kelly, second-fastest qualifier Bobby Fong on a Suzuki (115.551) and third-fastest Jason Aguilar on a Yamaha (115.181). Noted motorcycle historian – and former DAYTONA 200 champion – Don Emde confirmed Kelly’s age was a record for a polesitter.
Sanctioned by the American Sportbike Racing Association (ASRA), the DAYTONA 200 is an integral part of Daytona Beach’s rich racing history, dating to 1937 when it was held on the Daytona Beach-road course that utilized both the Atlantic Ocean shoreline and State Road A1A. It quickly became a companion to the course’s stock-car races that were first held in 1936. The DAYTONA 200 moved from the beach-road course to the speedway in 1961, the facility’s third year of existence.
Kelly posted the pole-winning lap during the last of three Friday qualifying sessions. His M4 Ecstar Suzuki teammate Fong led the first two sessions with top speeds of 115.204 and 115.551.
While Kelly is racing in the DAYTONA 200 for the first time, he is familiar with the “World Center of Racing.” Last October he won the ASRA Team Challenge at the speedway.
“I’m so, so happy to get this [pole],” said Kelly, from Hollywood, Florida. “But the important thing is [Saturday]. It will be a long, long race – but I will sleep well tonight.
“Talk about being exciting. I am absolutely stoked to be on the pole. I didn’t really expect it coming into the weekend. It wasn’t the first thing in my mind. I knew after the Team Challenge that this would be something similar but at the same time completely different. There’s a whole lot more competition and a lot of good riders this year running the 200. I was coming in after a solid week testing and today was just [about] working, working, step-by-step with my crew chief and whole team in general. Every time out we were really improving. Everything was just going really solid.”
When you’re talking history these days regarding the DAYTONA 200, Danny Eslick is invariably central to the discussion. A four-time (2014-15, 2016-17) champion of the event, Eslick qualified eighth on a Yamaha. The Tulsa, Oklahoma rider is attempting to become the third five-time DAYTONA 200 champion. Scott Russell (1992, ’94-95, ’97-98) and Miguel Duhamel (1991, ’96, ’99, 2003, ’05) share the all-time record for DAYTONA 200 victories.