Patrick Bertinelli and the No. 93 Krewe of Helios-AZ Suzuki GSX-R 1000 overtake another rider on the fabled 31-degree banks of Daytona International Speedway.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Call it the Fantastic Fourth.
Patrick Bertinelli raced the No. 93 Krewe of Helios-Arizona Suzuki GSX-R 1000 to a thrilling fourth place in his fourth and final race – the Speedscreen Unlimited Grand Prix Amateur Championship at the CCS Race of Champions at Daytona International Speedway yesterday.
In the process of completing his best finish for the race weekend, Bertinelli also helped teammate Ray Thibodeaux capture second place in the event, while fellow Arizonans Matt Heppler and Gary King rounded out the Southwest’s spectacular finish, placing sixth and seventh respectively in a race that saw a number of off-track adventures.
“I kept seeing guys going all over the track – off the track, in the grass,” Bertinelli said. “I kept thinking – it’s a 10-lap race, guys, you have to finish to place. I just stayed on the track and kept it pinned and was careful. It was a great race.”
As the points leader for the Southwest Region in amateur Unlimited GP, Bertinelli started from the first row, outside position, with Thibodeaux on the second row, just over Bertinelli’s left shoulder. Jumping to a good start in third position tipping into Turn 1, Bertinelli saw Thibodeaux’s shadow and checked up just enough to allow his teammate through to chase another championship.
Unfortunately, Bertinelli went wide going into the International Horseshoe and two riders passed him – meaning he had some work to do if he wanted to reach his goal of a Top 5 finish. Meanwhile, Heppler and King mounted an all out war behind him, as King melted his fender trying to overtake the trash-talking 23-year-old.
“He’s been talking trash all weekend,” King said. “I followed him out of the trailer, and he says, ‘Get used to that because that’s how it’s gonna be in the race.’ I told him to get out his dental floss because he was gonna need to get the chunks of my tires out of his teeth.”
“That was such a sweet race,” Heppler said, basking in the glow of his second Top 10 finish for the weekend.
Though Heppler didn’t need King’s dental floss, the Pirellis helped the Arizona riders to 16 Top 10 finishes overall – plus, the tire manufacturer was kind enough to loan our Grand Canyon State riders some umbrellas to keep them cool along with their fabulously sexy umbrella girls/wives/buddies cool as the riders waited on the grid in record heat for their respective starts.
In the Speedscreen Unlimited GP expert race earlier on Sunday, Dave Stone and the No. 25 All Stone Army Suzuki GSX-R 1000 captured his second podium of the weekend, finishing third. With his characteristic modesty and humility, Stone promptly did a burn out in Gatorade Victory Lane.
“I was gonna go in the grass if I had to – I spooled it up. The bike was going all over the place – that was a helluva race,” Stone said. “Who’d have thought, Davie Stone wins two podiums at Daytona?”
At the awards banquet later that evening, Ray Thibodeaux picked up his hardware as the 2006 Unlimited SuperBike amateur champion and he managed to thank every member of the Arizona contingent, the Southwest Region race officials – Randy, Heidi and Adrienne – chief mechanic Lenny Albins, and his wife during his acceptance speech.
“Everyone has been so helpful – I haven’t been on a bike in 16 years, and my friend Gary got a bike and that’s how I got started this year,” Thibodeaux said. “It’s been a great time.”
Indeed, the weekend was great for all of the Arizona riders – Thibodeaux, Bertinelli, Stone, Heppler, King and Alan Chook.
“A national championship, a second, four thirds, a fourth and a ton of top 10s,” chief mechanic Albins said. “That’s an awesome race weekend for the Southwest.”
Arizona racers Raymond Thibodeaux, Gary King, Patrick Bertinelli, CCS Southwest owner Randy Stem (standing), Alan Chook, Davie Stone and Matt Heppler celebrate their success in Victory Lane.