Jake Zemke: Looking For Work

Paul Carruthers | December 2, 2010

Jake Zemke won both American Superbike races in March at Daytona on his National Guard-backed Suzuki GSX-R1000 and finished the season third in the championship behind Graves Motorsports Yamaha’s Josh Hayes and Rockstar Makita Suzuki’s Tommy Hayden. Now he’s at home doing laundry and hoping to somehow land a ride before it’s time to go back to Daytona in March.”There’s nothing out there – that’s the problem,” Zemke said today from his home in Paso Robles, California. “It’s just really tough. There’s nothing really available. There’s no seats out there. Even teams that were out there last year, they don’t have funding to go racing next year.”Zemke, who will turn 35 in two weeks, has also had a poke around overseas, but things there are just as dire.”You look overseas and everybody wants you to bring money,” the former dirt tracker says. “It seems like that’s happening more and more in Moto2 and even in Superbike. Those teams are all hurting too and looking for sponsorship money. And if you’re American, it’s hard to find sponsorship money.”As for the 2010 season, Zemke looks back favorably upon it. His two Daytona wins were the highlight as his debut with the Jordan team couldn’t have gone any better. He followed those victories up with a second and a fourth at Auto Club Speedway and looked to be a serious championship contender. But only two more podium finishes followed and a few sixth-and eighth-place finishes ended up marring his season. By then Daytona wa a distant memory and it was more a case of what have you done for me lately. Still, he amassed 332 points to finish third in the title chase – some 35 points ahead of fourth-placed Larry Pegram.”It’s pretty crazy,” Zemke said. “When I sit back and look at things, I won two races and I think I podiumed in four or five [five podiums total] and finished third in the championship. Basically the two guys who finished ahead of me were on factory bikes and we were on a privateer bike. I think we had pretty good results, but at the end of the day it’s… well, it’s kind of weird. When I look back at what I’ve done throughout my career… Since 1997, when I started professional road racing, I’ve finished in the top three in the championship something like 11 times in 13 years. So it’s definitely not for a lack of results. There’s just nothing out there right now.”By the end of the season, Zemke started to see the writing on the wall and knew it wasn’t likely that he’d be back in the Michael Jordan Motorsports fold. He would end up being replaced by either Ben Bostrom or Roger Lee Hayden, depending on which rider the team puts in the National Guard side of the team.”I had talked to them [the Jordan team] about it and I kind of knew by that last race,” Zemke said. “We were putting the pieces of the puzzle together and figuring out what was going on and it seemed like they weren’t sure what they were doing, but it wasn’t like ‘Oh, yeah, we’re looking forward to next season,’ I think the week or two after that, I found out.”You rarely find Zemke without a smile and that hasn’t changed even as he sits jobless at home. He’s a glass-half-full guy and he’s still holding out hope that something good will come out of this.”I’ve got stuff… as far as people, a crew,” Zemke said. “I’ve got everything in my pocket ready to go if I could find some money. It’s just a case of finding some money and that’s the hardest thing.”But we’ll get it figured out one way or another.”

Paul Carruthers | Editor

Paul Carruthers took over as the editor of Cycle News in 1993 after serving as associate editor since starting his career at the publication in 1985. Carruthers has covered every facet of the sport in his near-28-year tenure at America's Daily Motorcycle News Source.