Jake Lewis enters this weekend's final 2014 GoPro Daytona SportBike race at New Jersey Motosports Park with loads of confidence as he's won two of the last three races in the series. He sits just seven points behind the leader Jake Gagne and if he wins both races he'll take center stage and the coveted #1 plate.
Lewis, just a mere 18 years old, rides for the MotoSport.com Meen Motorsports Racing team. Now in his third year, he's been riding pro since he was 16. Last year, he was awarded Rookie of the Year and he already has a Championship under his belt - the 2012 Pro SuperSport East title.
In addition to his Championship run, Lewis is all but guaranteed the 2014 Roadracing World Young Gun Award. This award is given to a rider in either the AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike or AMA Pro SuperSport who earns the most overall points and was no older than 18 years old at the start of the 2014 AMA Pro Road Racing season. Lewis has 182 points, 54 more than Kaleb De Keyrel who would need to win both races this weekend and for Lewis to not finish either race to take the prize.
MotoSport caught up with this young and bright star in AMA Pro Racing before he headed off to New Jersey earlier this week.
Years riding pro: Three years
What age did you start riding and on what: Age 3 on a PW 50.
What do you ride now? Yamaha YZF-R6 (600cc)
Hometown: Princeton, KY
- Won 20 dirt track amateur national titles
- 2006 AMA Dirt Track Fast Brain Award
- 2009 Youth Rider of the Year
- 2011 Roadrace Horizon Award
- 2012 AMA Pro SuperSport East Title
- 2013 Sportbike Rookie of the Year
Other sports participated in: Played basketball in Middle School
Other hobbies/interests: I enjoy training which includes a lot of cycling. I still play basketball quite a bit and just enjoy hanging out with friends. I also started playing golf.
1. What got you started racing Motorcycles?
My dad and grandpa used to race back in their day. My dad got me my first motorcycle for Christmas and I really liked it and wanted to race ever since I was three years old.
2. To compete in your sport how much is it mental toughness versus physical?
I'd say road racing is a lot more mental because we're going 180 miles an hour. Most of the time you go in a corner and the bike sticks but a guy has one crash and they'll lose all confidence in the bike. At the same time, our races are also 30 minutes long so you have to be physically fit too so I do a lot of training on road bikes.
3. Clearly you have to be fearless, what other attributes make up a strong rider?
You have to be mentally tough and pretty smart. One little mistake can cost you the whole race. You've got to make sure your passes are nice and clean because once you lose a draft you're pretty much over with. You've got to be really strong on the brakes and know the right time to brake to make your passes stick. That's how we make most of our passes, being hard on the brakes. Once we pass, braking keeps them behind us.
4. You are practically a lock for the 2014 Roadracing World Young Gun Award - what's this mean to you?
It means a lot. I'm one of the youngest guys in our class and I won Rookie of the Year last year. My career keeps growing and I keep progressing and I'm only 18 years old. A lot of the guys I race against are older than me and I just hope to continue with the success I've been having.
5. The AMA championship gets decided on Sunday and you're in the mix - how do you keep focused on the race at hand?
We've had a two month break to think about it and I've been training really hard. I have to treat it like any another race and not worry about it. I need to stay focused and keep riding like I have been. When you start thinking too much that's when mistakes can happen and that's what I don't need. I'm seven points down, if I win Race 1 and Jake Gagne wins Race 2, I'm still two points down. So after Race 1 we'll have a better idea of who the Champion might be. If I win Race 1 it's either crash or win the championship in Race 2.
6. Win or lose, it's quite an accomplishment. What's worked out so well for you and the team this year?
It's my second year with the team and the chemistry is great and the bike I am on is the best out there. I've been living with Roger Hayden and his family and they've been helping me out with my racing. We've been working hard and just wanting to win from the beginning of the year. Working hard and being prepared has made all the difference.
7. Take us through a racing lap. Is it moment by moment or are you five, 10 seconds ahead in your mind?
You have to be quite a bit ahead, like you said. We want to make sure we hit our braking markers right every single time. If we get too deep in a corner apex or don't hit our brakes hard enough we have a chance to get passed or crash. The apex is the middle of the corner right when you need to be on the gas really hard. You can come out of the corner a little too slow than you should be. If you hit the corner too hard you usually tuck in the front end and crash. Once you've hit the apex you're usually done with braking and you try and get back on the gas.
Road Racing is all about corner speed and carrying your momentum through and on to the next lap. Corner speed is huge. A lot of guys can be good on the brakes but can't carry the speed. You've got to get back on the gas as fast as you can because some of the straightaways are a half mile long.
8. There's little if any time to prevent a mistake - does your race have to be perfect every time or can you make adjustments throughout to correct issues?
That's why I practice during qualifying. In the race you have to hit your makers every single time. In the race you can't make many adjustments to go faster.
9. If you weren't racing motorcycles, what would you be doing?
I'm not really sure. I get that question asked a lot. Ever since I was three I've wanted to race motorcycles. If I wasn't racing I'd probably be in the industry in some form. My dad still works at a motorcycle shop so I'd be doing something along those lines.
10. You've had great success at such a young age - what do you work on in the offseason?
We have a pretty long off season. I'll probably take a week off after this weekend and start training and get right back into it. I'll work on my riding with the Hayden family and watch videos from the past season and see where I can get a little bit faster. We usually start testing for the new season in December and January so we really don't get that much time off the bike.
Written By: AndrewT