Memorial Day we left for New Jersey by way of Hershey Park. We took a tour and had some yummy chocolate. However, the special day was not lost on us. We honored our fallen by listening to podcasts of veterans tell stories of their fallen brothers. Which got us all the way to New Jersey Motorsport Park, in time for the Yamaha Dealer Day hosted by N2 Track Days, on Tuesday.
We met up with his MotoAmerica team, N2. Blake got to take a peek at the new Yamaha motorcycle, the R7, and got to practice on his MotoAmerica bike. There will be a MotoAmerica race at that track in September so, turning laps and getting feedback from his crew chief was certainly beneficial. It was also nice getting to see some of our northern moto-family.
We had a couple of days at home and made it to Nelson Ledges in Garretsville, Ohio by Thursday for another track day hosted by N2 Track Days. It was a good day of practice for the endurance races that they and WERA were hosting on Saturday.
Saturday, Blake qualified on pole for the two-hour race that he’d be competing in on his Yamaha R3 by himself. Once the race got underway, he pretty much checked out from the pack. Around the 30-40 minute mark, I realized he had lapped the entire field!
When I asked him if there was anything exciting about the race and he said he thought he was going to crash one time. He was going fast into one of the right-hand turns and as he eased off the throttle the front end tucked under him and started sliding…for a while. Blake said, “I kept pulling, pullin, pulling, and it finally snapped back up.” Shew, that was a close one!
About halfway through, Blake brought the motorcycle in to get some fuel and quickly got back out into the race. He was doing so well, he had lapped his competitors 2, 3, and 4 times. With 15 minutes or so left in the race, we were feeling confident in his win when we saw him pull into pit lane. He was going slow and pointing; it was his chain! It had come off. Thankfully close enough to pit lane so Blake was able to coast back to his crew. The team quickly got the chain on, told Blake to take it easy and sent him out again. Once they had a plan, they called Blake back in, fixed the chain properly and got him back into the race. Those two extra pit-stops caused his huge gain to be lost but still finished at least one lap ahead of the competition and won the race!
After lunch, the 4-hour endurance race got underway. Once again, Damian Jigalov got team, Going the Distance, started aboard the Robem Engineering 650 and put down consistent lap times. He had the team in 5th place when he passed the motorcycle off to Cassidy Heiser.
Cassidy took over and was running some fast lap times when arm pump would not let him go any further. Thankfully, Damian was still in his gear and hopped back on the motorcycle until it was time to refuel. The crew did a quick pit stop and Blake took his turn on the Robem motorcycle.
The team was down to 9th place at this point giving Blake a challenge. Now, remember, he just rode his Yamaha R3 for 2 hours! The 650 is so much bigger and heavier and Blake rode it for 1 hour and 22 minutes (122 just happens to be his amateur race number) bringing the team from 9th to 3rd when it was once again, time to refuel.
For the third time, Damian got on, held the position, and rode until the race was over. Team, Going the Distance was on the podium, for third place!
With plans to test with Blake’s MotoAmerica team, N2, at Pittsburgh International Raceway on Sunday, we quickly packed up and hit the road. It was a short trip giving us time to set up the pit, grab a bite, hit the showers and the bed before it got too late.
As Blake’s mechanic, Mike woke up early to put a new engine in Blake’s MotoAmerica motorcycle as directed by crew chief, Shiloh Salopek. By the time Blake went out for his first session, Mike had it all ready. Then, after each consecutive session Blake had on the racetrack, Shiloh would debrief him and take notes. Mike would make any necessary changes and send Blake back out on the track again. It was a very productive day. The team seemed to be excited for what’s to come when Blake gets to race with MotoAmerica again next week.
Until Next Time…
Yep, we will be on the road again. This weekend we will be heading to Road America in Wisconsin for round 3 of the SportbikeTrackGear.com Junior Cup race. You can watch the race live with a MotoAmericaLivePlus subscription or delayed on Tuesday, June 15th on Fox Sports2 at 9pm. Or you could even come to the race; we’d love to see you! Stop by and say hello!
Be sure to grab your BEAST gear here!!!
This weekend we were down in Bloomingdale, Georgia at Roebling Road Raceway for the N2/WERA Motorcycle Endurance Races. All weekend the mornings and evenings were cool but the days were warm and sunny. It was wonderful! Blake didn’t have school Friday so; we could do Friday’s practice guilt free! Of course, I have an idea I would have been the only one feeling guilty.
Starting P1, Jack got the boys off to a great start. At about the 30-minute mark he was battling for first, when he came in for a mechanical issue. After checking things out, the team felt good about sending Jack back out on the motorcycle. Unfortunately, that put the team a lap down and in 5th place. He was able to gain a position before handing the motorcycle off to Blake, 30 minutes later.
Thursday, we arrive at the track, unload, set up the pits, and take the motorcycle to tech inspection. Friday morning is when the spectators start coming in. The STG Junior Cup (Blake’s class) gets a practice session and then their first qualifying session (Q1). They are given a second qualifying session (Q2) Saturday morning.
The qualifying sessions give the riders the opportunity to get the fastest lap time they can. If they don’t like how the motorcycle is set up, they can come in, make adjustments and keep trying to lower their time. They don’t have to go out at all if they don’t want to; the goal is to get a good starting position for the races. MotoAmerica uses everyone’s best time, no matter which session it was in, to line everyone up on the grid for both races of the weekend.
Blake is in the Sportbike Track Gear Junior Cup which is the entry level class where they ride small displacement, production-based motorcycles. The premier race class, HONOS Superbike, has racers on top-of-the-line, highly modified motorcycles capable of speeds approaching 200 miles per hour and there’s 3 other classes in between.
Spectators can come Friday for practices but, most come Saturday and Sunday. If ever you have a chance to go to the races, bring your camp chair, sunscreen, and your cooler. You can move around the track and watch from different spots and MotoAmerica always has a “Fan Zone” with vendors, shows, even motorcycles you can ride. Shoot, they even offer tickets to ride with a former pro on the back of his motorcycle. I’m hoping I get a chance to do that one time…sort of.
The first race of the season was held at Road Atlanta. There’s always some “housekeeping” that has to be done at the first race. Fill out forms, get your head shot taken for broadcasting purposes, etc. Once the day wrapped up, the city of Gainesville, Georgia hosted a meet and greet with MotoAmerica racers in their downtown square. Motorcycles were on display, games were played, and autographs signed. Blake was part of the meet and greet and met a new fan. The emcee announced a chicken-wing-eating contest and the fan challenged Blake. In one minute, Blake ate a whopping one and a half chicken wings. I think we all can agree he needs to stick to motorcycle racing!
We snuck away after school on Wednesday, March 9, and headed to Florida. It was Daytona Bike Week which is when the annual Daytona 200 takes place. It is as big to motorcycle enthusiasts as the Daytona 500 is to NASCAR enthusiasts AND Blake was going to be able to race. Not in the 200 (he’s not old enough) but ON the infamous Daytona Motor Speedway.
Thursday was spent loading everything into the garages and prepping for Friday’s 200 practices and one of Blake’s races. Saturday, was the Daytona 200. It was fun watching everyone getting ready. The hot pits were busy; there was a fun “buzz” with so many people running around getting everything prepped and in place. The race is 57 laps, it’s basically an endurance race. The racers and their crew have to strategize their pit stops, when to change tires, when/how to conserve fuel.
The short answer, A LOT! But first, let’s do a little re-cap of last year.
Re-Cap 2020 Motorcycle Race Season
We all know Corona threw a wrench into everything and so it did for the MotoAmerica season as well. Some races were canceled, some postponed and all had to be overhauled to meet various locale’s mandates. By the time Blake’s 14th birthday rolled around (making him eligible for the Junior Cup), there had already been 4 races. But, that didn’t stop his friends and fans from giving him a huge welcome at his first race in Atlanta. In addition to that, N2 Racing and SWG Motorsports allowed Blake to pit under the N2 Racing canopy. Blake not only had moral and technical support but, he also looked like he belonged in a pro paddock and could really show off his sponsors. Blake finished 9th in the 2020 Junior Cup Championship.