Rider Spotlight: Jake Johnson
NEWS January 26, 2012
Photo by Dave Hoenig
AMAPro: So where are you from?
JJ: I’m from Coatesville, Pennsylvania. I was born in New Jersey and lived there for pretty much my entire life. In the past year or so, I moved to Pennsylvania. Lately, this weather hasn’t been too bad. Today was a high of 47 degrees.. not too terribly cold!
AMAPro: What was your first motorcycle?
JJ: Very first motorcycle was an old Honda Z50. My dad threw me on it when I was three years old. I couldn’t even touch the pegs and barely reach the handlebars. He’d put it in gear and that was it!
AMAPro: How did you get into motorcycle racing?
JJ: My dad raced flat track when he was younger. He had a big group of friends that he would race with. When I was born, he got me going into flat track right from the get go. I didn’t even know of other forms of motorcycle racing until a few years later. Flat track is all I’ve known. I watched my dad in ride flat track, and when he retired, he handed it off to me.
AMAPro: Out of all the bikes you’ve ridden, which one stood out the most?
JJ: I would have to say the Harley-Davidson XR750 that I ride for Zanotti are pretty great bike. I really liked my RM-Z450 flat tracker I rode when I was with Factory Suzuki and Dave Burkes. We had one bike that I rode Daytona on four times. If it has two wheels and a throttle, I’m happy. But those two bikes stand out in particular.
AMAPro: What’s your favorite racetrack?
JJ: I don’t know. It all depends on the day really.. There are tracks that I hate and did well at, while I would like other tracks and not finish well. My goal is to go in and win every weekend. Hagerstown is a special race for me, because it’s somewhat close. I also like the Springfield TT. It’s a little tighter and twistier in comparison to other TT tracks. Peoria is another favorite too.
AMAPro: What draws you to the sport? The thrill, competition or the speed?
JJ: For me, it’s a little bit of everything. Throughout the years, I’ve met some really good friends in this sport, and they’re a lot like family to me. More than 75% of the people I know were met at a flat track event. The thrill and speed go along with the competition. Winning is a big reason. You will have bad weekends that make you ask yourself why you do this, but then you win, which puts you right back on top of the world. The high points definitely outweigh the low points.
AMAPro: What’s a typical day like for you?
JJ: Nothing too exciting… It all depends on the day. I like tinkering around with motorcycles. In a normal day, I’ll tinker around on motorcycles, tear something apart and put something else back together. I think motorcycle racing is a job and a hobby. I have been working on my mini-bikes to outdo my friends on their mini bikes. I’m not that big into training, but I try to stay busy. Many people wouldn’t believe this, but I actually went to the gym today! There really is no typical day for me.
AMAPro: We know you recently got married... Congratulations!
JJ: Yeah! We got married just recently. Nothing has differed from day to day to what it is now. We joked a lot before we got married that Jodi was going to cut off all her hair and gain 30 pounds, but that hasn’t happen yet, so that’s good! Laughs. We’ve been together for about 10 years, so we finally took the dive and made it official!
AMAPro: What are your expectations going into next year?
JJ: In the big picture, winning another championship is the goal. Anything less would be considered a failure. The competition is so tough though, so I won’t be throwing in the towel if it doesn’t happen. I have some smaller goals that I would like to accomplish. There are some places I haven’t won at yet that I’d like to win, like the Peoria TT. It’s one of those races that I’ve come close to winning, but it’s gotten away from me. It’s such a big and historic race to our series. Henry Wiles has dominated there recently, so I know there are some tough guys that I’ll have to get through to win. Another race to win would be Springfield ST. I won the mile and TT twice, but I’ve never won the ST. I’m pretty sure no one has won all three races, and I’d like to win them all before it goes away. It could be my last shot, so I have to go for it!
AMAPro: Who's your racing hero?
JJ: There’s quite a few, but the one that stands out is Ricky Graham. As a kid, Graham was one of my favorites. The season he had in 1993, it was an unreal year that no one’s been able to match. Looking back at it all, Scott Parker would have to be another one. As a kid, he wasn’t my biggest favorite, because all he did was dominate, but I’ve gotten to know him over that past few years. He’s a cool guy. He’ll probably get mad if he reads this and sees that I wasn’t a fan, but after being around this sport and finding out how hard it is while he was so dominate, he really put it into perspective for me.
Chris Carr is yet another rider who had a long, successful career that I hope to be half the man he was.
Watch Jake take home his second AMA Pro Flat Track Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship at Pomona (compliments of The Fast and Dirty). http://vimeo.com/30961786.
What's your take?
January 25th was AMA Pro Grand National Champion Gary Nixon's birthday. We could only hope to have a ride as exciting as his was..
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