DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 23, 2014) - The 2014 AMA Pro Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson Series finale at New Jersey Motorsports Park could easily have been a perfunctory affair. After all, Ruthless Racing/Trev Deeley Motorcycles' Danny Eslick entered the Kawasaki Devil's Showdown weekend with a rather large title advantage and with only one other rider in the field with even a mathematical chance of catching him.

However, the Harley-Davidson Series doesn't seem capable of producing a contest lacking in drama, and the championship picture remained cloudy as the riders started to file in on their starting positions.

That is, the riders minus Eslick, who suffered a massive fall in the morning's qualifying session, nearly destroying his bike in the process. The Ruthless Racing/Trev Deeley crew worked frantically to get it back in running condition and the Oklahoman had to rush just to fill a slot on the back row.

Needing a seventh place finish to assure himself the crown, Eslick slashed his way up through the field and ultimately finished in sixth to claim the 2014 AMA Pro Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson Series crown.

The achievement furthers Eslick claim as one of the more decorated riders in AMA Pro Road Racing history. He is now a four-time AMA Pro Road Racing champion, adding to his 20-9 and 2011 AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike titles, as well as his triumph in the inaugural AMA Pro Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson Series in 2010.

Eslick, who opened the 2014 season with a victory in the prestigious DAYTONA 200, is the only man to win two Harley-Davidson Series championships.

"I ran off the track and wadded it up in the wet grass this morning and pretty much destroyed that motorcycle," Eslick said. "The Trev Deeley/Ruthless Racing team busted their butts from the time I crashed the motorcycle until the moments before the race. We were pretty close to not making it.

"I've ridden it three seasons now and that's the first time I've crashed it. It's bound to happen and the way these guys are riding - they're riding incredibly. The level that this Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson Series has risen to is unbelievable. I used to be able to play around and sandbag a little bit and still have a shot at it, but now you really have to be on your game and work on your set up. Hats off to everybody out there."

While Eslick was a show all on his own, the melee for the win was equally intriguing. Five riders slugged it out up front, unfortunately one of them - title hopeful Ben Carlson on the Suburban Motors Harley-Davidson XR1200 - had been hit with a 10-second penalty for anticipating the start.

Later, one-time NJMP race winner Shane Narbonne of the Six-Four Motors team dropped out of contention for the win, pushing just a bit too hard and running into the grass.

Josh Chisum Racing/Bartel's Harley-Davidson's Tyler O'Hara put it on cruise over the final few laps, eyeing a podium finish to close out his season.

That left just outgoing champion Steve Rapp on the Suburban Motors Harley-Davidson and KWR/Millennium Technologies' Kyle Wyman to slug it out for the checkered flag.

Wyman, who was riding sore after suffering a big crash in Saturday's SportBike race, gritted it out and dropped the hammer late. He made the most of lapped traffic and opened the gap he needed to close out an uneven season with an impressive victory.

"I tried to put my head down from the beginning," Wyman said. “I got the holeshot from the second row and did my best to push as hard as I could for a whole lap. But Steve came flying by on the front straightaway and from that point I knew the race was going to be a little different than I wanted it to be. It turned into a pack and I sat there through the middle part of the race. It was getting crazy up front and I just wanted to make sure I didn't get caught up in any of that.

"I basically put myself in the right place at the right time at the end. I made a push to the front and I got the lead just as we hit the lappers. The lappers are going to be either way - they're going to hold you up or give you a big gap. They gave me a gap and I put my head down the last two laps and it worked out great. I'm so happy to get another win this year.

"It's been such an up-and-down season for the KWR crew this year, and I'm just glad to have finished off the season on a high note. It feels great to be able to go into the offseason with good memories from the last race. I wanted to win a race with a gap, and we finally did that."

Runner-up Rapp said the tight racing was no surprise.

"It was a great race,” Rapp said. “The Harleys always produce great racing. It's tough - you've got the target on you. But we still had a great year and had a lot of fun. I really want to thank the Suburban Harley team - it's just a great family effort."

O'Hara finished third in the race, ahead of Narbonne, Carlson and Eslick. He was third in the points in the end, trailing just Eslick and Carlson.

"If it was easy, it wouldn't be worth all the hard work,” O’Hara said. “That's what it's about - racing your butt off every weekend. You've got to work hard to wins these - it's so evenly matched. I saw Benny got plus-10 and I just didn't have the pace today. I was a little bit off on the set-up and just left off a little on the last couple of laps."

Thrashed Bike Racing's David Estok took seventh in the race, ahead of Trev Deeley Motorcycles' Darren James, Bartels Harley-Davidson/JCR's Josh Chisum, and third Suburban entry Nick Hansen.

While Chili Pepper Racing's Hayden Schultz just missed the top 10, he locked up the Sunoco Go the Distance Award.

"I’m glad to get the Sunoco fuel mileage award,” Schultz said. "But it’s hard not to be able to go out there and race as hard as you want to, and to make sure you don’t crash. We didn’t have a setup after some tampering with the bikes was done Friday night. We had to start completely over (Saturday) morning in practice, so we were just taking a shot in the dark with that. I couldn’t push real hard because I wanted to make sure I finished."

Rapp backed up his 2013 title with a fourth-place finish in the 2014 standings ahead of Wyman, Hansen and Schultz. Daytona runner-up Gage McAllister finished eighth, followed by Chisum and James.


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