The following press release was issued by AMA Pro Racing, announcing Jake Johnson as the Ricky Graham Dirt Track Rookie of the Year:
Jacob “Jake” Johnson has been named the 2002 Ricky Graham AMA U.S. Flat Track Rookie of the Year. Johnson, 18, from Deptford, New Jersey, finished a solid seventh in the final 2002 AMA Progressive Insurance U.S. Flat Track Championship points. He scored seven top-five finishes in the series and earned his first win at the Tunica, Mississippi, Indoor Short Track National.
“I had a much better year than I expected,” admitted Johnson, who rode for Moroney’s Harley-Davidson. “I was just hoping to maybe crack the top-20, so to finish seventh in the series and to win a race in my rookie season was awesome.”
The rookie sensation was one of 13 riders to win an AMA Grand National this year, the highest number of winners in a single season since 1985 when AMA National road races were part of the Grand National schedule. Johnson plans on returning to the dirt track circuit next season and hopes to improve on his excellent rookie season.
“My best results came at short-track and clay half-mile races,” explained Johnson. “I’d like to come back next season and be a little more consistent and continue to learn how to race on the miles, which I know takes some time. I’m also going to be putting in a lot of time cross-training in motocross this winter so that I can be ready for the TT races.”
Johnson becomes the 32nd recipient of the AMA’s Flat Track Rookie of the Year Award. Numerous AMA National Champions launched their careers after being named the top rookie including riders like Jay Springsteen, Scott Parker, Bubba Shobert, Doug Chandler, Chris Carr, Ben Bostrom and Nicky Hayden. Johnson is the first rookie to win an AMA Grand National race since Hayden accomplished the feat in 1999.
Johnson will be presented his award at the November 23, 2002 AMA Pro Racing Awards Banquet at the Venetian Resort Hotel Las Vegas. For more information on the banquet, call AMA Pro Racing’s Michele Rossi at (614) 856-1910, ext. 1342, or e-mail email@example.com.
The Ricky Graham Flat Track Rookie of the Year Award was created by a group of Graham’s friends, family and racing associates, including sponsors Danny and Carole Malfatti, tuner Johnny Goad and wife Sarah; Graham’s father and stepmother, Bill and Pat Graham, and Graham’s mother and stepfather, Barbara and Mike Homen. The award includes a $1500 cash award.
One of the most popular and talented racers in AMA Grand National racing history, Ricky Graham died in January of 1998 during a fire at his Salinas Valley, California, home. Graham was a three-time AMA Grand National Champion, winning the number one plate in 1982, 1984 and 1993.