Yoshimura Suzuki came loaded for the 1979 Bell Helmets 100 Superbike National at Daytona International Speedway. The powerhouse team featured Wes Cooley, Ron Pierce and David Emde on Pops Yoshimura prepared GS1000S Superbikes. Pierce and Cooley both won their respective qualifying heat races with Cooley earning the pole. On the first lap of the race, it was three Suzuki’s leading the way with Cooley in front of Pierce and Roberto Pietri on an Arrow Racing Suzuki. Running fourth was an up-and-coming 17-year-old named Freddie Spencer riding a Howard Racing Ducati 900SS. When asked how he got off school to race Daytona, Freddie said “I’m good friends with the principal.”
Emde, who’d crashed hard on his 250 the day before was spitting up blood after the crash and officials wouldn’t clear him to race in the Superbike heat race. Bruised and battered, Emde somehow convinced the AMA to let him race in Friday’s Superbike final. He started from the back of the field and was charging his way to the front. He moved from 63rd to fifth in just seven laps.
After the pit stops, it was still Cooley in the lead. But then the front brakes faded on Cooley’s Suzuki and he overshot the chicane surrendering a six-second lead to Pierce, who was now the front runner.
Spencer ran as high as second, but a long pit stop dropped him back and he eventually retired with mechanical problems with his Ducati. Front runners Pietri and Vetter Kawasaki’s Reg Pridmore both threw chains and were out. Defending race winner Steve McLaughlin dropped out when Racecrafter’s Kawasaki rear tire went flat entering the chicane.
On his way to victory Pierce had a “no idea how I saved that,” moment “It was in turn four (the West Horseshoe) and I went down far enough that my ankle hit the ground and my handlebar nearly did, but somehow I managed to pull it back up and wave to the crowd.”
At the finish it was Pierce by a half-minute over Cooley, who by the end had no front brakes, and Emde’s spectacular charge from dead last put him on the podium in third.
On the podium Joe Weinroth, the general manager at Yoshimura R&D, said they were all going to the Hawaiian Inn that night to “get real loose.”