This is the final installment in the excellent Rich Chenet photo series of races from the 1980s.
Freddie Spencer made his Daytona 200 debut in 1980 and it was an eye opener. Kenny Roberts was heavily favored to win that year’s race, but went out early with a stuck throttle. Spencer emerged as the leader riding a Howard Racing, Erv Kanamoto-tuned Yamaha TZ750.
A thunderstorm came and stopped the race after just nine laps, but when it restarted a couple of hours later it was 18-year-old Daytona 200 rookie Spencer again sprinting off to a big lead. Just 10 laps after the restart Spencer already had a 17 second lead.
Unfortunately for Spencer his stunning debut came to a premature end. With 13 laps to go Spencer’s Yamaha seized and his day was over. Frenchman Patrick Pons went on to win the race.
It’s interesting to note that Spencer was already a factory Honda rider at this point, but he had a terrible test with the factory RS1000 at Willow Springs just prior to Daytona. He was given special dispensation to race the Yamaha in the 200.
Spencer would have to wait five more years before he finally won the Daytona 200.
Rich Chenet’s website can be found at www.chenetphoto.com