Wednesday, May 16, 2012

AMA Road Racing: 20 Years Since Scott 'The Screaming' Chief' Russell Won His First Daytona 200

Scott Russell grabs a handful of brake heading into turn 5 during qualifying on the #22 Muzzy Kawasaki/Dunlop/SBS/NGK-sponsored Kawasaki ZXR-750 for the AMA Superbike Championship round at The Coca-Cola Super Cycle Classic in June 1991 at Road America.  In his second year riding for the Muzzy Kawasaki team, The Screaming Chief was on his way to winning his 2nd of three-in-a-row AMA 750 Supersport Championships, and would end the season winning all nine rounds in the 750 class aboard the team's ZXR-750.

Moving ahead to the '92 season, the man from North Georgia would put a big hurt to the rest of the AMA Superbike Championship series regulars by winning his first-of-five total wins at the Daytona 200 by Arai event in Daytona Beach, Florida in March of '92.  Russell, the only man to win five times at Daytona in the modern superbike class, just several years earlier had sat in the stands as a spectator watching Fast Freddie Spencer do the 'triple' in winning the Daytona 200, Superbike 100 and 250cc GP Championship round at the World Center of Speed.

Russell would head to Europe with the Muzzy team for the '93 season to campaign the World Superbike Championship, eventually giving Kawasaki it's only championship in WSBK at the end of his first-full season across the pond.  He also would win the Suzuka Eight Hours event in the '93 season with team mate Aaron Slight.

Biding his time in the AMA series, Russell made several trips back to U.S. soil to remind everyone that he hadn't really gone that far away, winning events over the course of the next couple of seasons at Loudon and Road Atlanta that didn't coincide with his WSBK duties.  Of course along the way, he would make his way back to the place that earned him the nickname 'Mr. Daytona' to take his other wins in '94-'95, '97-'98.  Amazingly, one of his best races at Daytona came in '93 when Eddie Lawson pipped him on the dash to the flag on the Vance & Hines Yamaha while riding as a fill-in for the injured Jamie James, Russell's team mate while riding for the Yoshimura Suzuki team in the late '80s.

Dabbling in the 500cc Grand Prix Championship while riding for Suzuki, Russell's mount wasn't up to par with the rest of the grid and he never achieved the success in the premier class that he was able to in superbikes.  He returned to WSBK and then eventually to race the AMA Superbike Championship full-time in the '99-'00 seasons riding for the struggling Harley-Davidson VR1000 superbike team.  After parting ways with the Milwaukee-based team, Russell was set to run Daytona again in March '01 for the HMC Ducati team out of Wisconsin when he was seriously injured in a starting-line crash, which effectively ended his pro career.  He was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2005.

Since the '09 season, he has been one of the regular announcers of SpeedTV's coverage of AMA Pro Road Racing, and has proved to be a great analyst to have in the booth and at the track, and also still makes appearances at other events and shows (we caught him at the Indy Dealer Expo in February 2012).

A special thanks to Dean Adams and for making this great video of Scott Russell's first Daytona 200 win available at YouTube.  Although some of the video and audio is a little sketchy, for the most part it is a really great capture, even when in full-screen.  This was made in the good ole days of racing when TNN's crew of Brock Yates and Steve Evans were covering the AMA Superbike Championship series.

Sit back, kick your feet up, and get ready to watch some of the greatest history in AMA Pro Road Racing as The Screaming Chief romps the field in his first-of-five Daytona 200 by Arai wins in March 1992:

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