Photography by Larry Lawrence
Two-time AMA Grand National Champion Jake Johnson has left Zanotti Racing, the team with which he won both his championships.
Johnson, reached by phone today, said he felt like he just needed a change.
“It’s just been something that’s been stewing in me for quite a while, probably over the last year or so,” Johnson said. “There’s nothing anybody’s done wrong. Dave Zanotti, Ted McDermitt, everybody that I work with has been great. I have nothing bad to say against them in any way. It was just something I needed to do I guess. I just wasn’t having fun going to the races anymore. I was having a hard time getting motivated.
“Ever since those two championships there’s been a lot of ups and downs. More downs than ups. I think it’s healthy for everybody to try something new.”
Stevie Bonsey is rumored to be the rider who will replace Johnson at Zanotti, although messages into Bonsey and Zanotti have not yet been returned.
Johnson is currently ranked fourth in the AMA Grand National point standings and he said he expects to continue racing this season.
“I’ve been talking to a few people, although nothing’s set in stone yet,” Johnson said. “It won’t be too hard to do these next two races (Castle Rock and Peoria) because they’re Singles races, but right now I’m still working on getting something lined up for the Twins.”
Johnson won the 2010 and 2011 AMA Grand National titles in his first two years with Zanotti. He thinks that early success might have been part of the problem.
“When you win two championships with a team right out of the box like that it’s tough to top that,” Johnson said. “Expectations are set so high that anything less than a championship is viewed as sort of a failure.
“I finished third in the championship last year and a lot of riders would have killed for a season like that, but I didn’t get any wins so it was looked at as a bad year. And I put pressure on myself too because I want to win.”
Johnson said it’s funny how things come around in racing. “Who knows, I might be back with Zanotti in two or three years,” he said. “But for now I’m going to look for some new scenery and see if I can get motivated and have fun racing again.”