Rider Spotlight: Jake Cunningham

(Photo: AMA Pro)
(Photo: AMA Pro)

Jake Cunningham made a career high move in AMA Pro Motorcycle-Superstore.com Pro Singles competition by winning the Springfield Mile. AMA Pro caught up with Cunningham to ask about the big win in Springfield.

AMAP: Where are you from?

JC: Sherwood, Wisconsin. It’s a local town that I grew up in. I was born 10 minutes away in a town called called Kimberly. There’s not that much out here other than a gas station, restaurant and houses.

AMAP: Do you get to ride motorcycles in the off-season?

JC: Definitely. I live about five minutes away from Wisconsin’s biggest lake, and we ice ride on that lake almost every week, all winter long.

AMAP: How did you get into riding motorcycles?

JC: I started out on four-wheelers when I was about five years old. I got into motorcycles at the age of 7 or 8, and have been on them ever since. When I was on the four wheeler, there was a local race for four wheelers on a flat track, so I got into that. Once I tried it on a motorcycle, I was instantly hooked. Since then, I’ve been riding as much as I can. I went road racing for the rookies cup one year, but I’ve been racing since then.

AMAP: You just won the biggest race of the year for the sport of Flat Track racing. How did it feel to be the first to cross the checkered?

JC: It felt really good. I know it wasn’t easy, but I’m pretty sure it still hasn’t set in yet that I’ve won the Springfield Mile. It felt very good to be on top of podium again after a long struggle of not being up front or close. Getting a win would’ve been huge, but it being the Springfield Mile was unexplainable.

AMAP: That was a close finish too. There were five motorcycles that crossed the start/finish line at the same time.

JC: Yeah! After I crossed the start/finish line, I looked around and noticed that there were five other motorcycles around me. I didn’t even know who won, 2nd or 3rd.. Then one of the flag men pointed at me signing that I won. That’s when I got a huge smile on my face.

AMAP: What track layout do you enjoy the most?

JC: I enjoy the half-mile and mile tracks the most. When they have good traction, wide grooves and a lot of passing room, I like that the most.

AMAP: You placed in a good position at Daytona Flat Track, and then won the Springfield Mile, that has to feel pretty good.

JC: It does feel good considering last year, because I wasn’t even close to 2nd or 3rd. Now, at the start of the year, I’m 2nd right out of the gate. It feels good to be competitive and be up there. I’ve been towards the bottom for a while, so it’s nice to be back battling with everyone. I was doing well last year, but not getting top-fives or a podium.

AMAP: What are your thoughts on riding in the AMA Pro Motorcycle-Superstore.com Pro Singles class?

JC: I think it’s a really good class. Instead of going from an amateur right into the snake pit, it’s a great stepping stone into AMA Pro Racing. I grew up in the class and know practically everyone in it. You’re at the Pro races, so that’s cool too. Everyone’s really nice and friendly to one another, so that’s important.

AMAP: You’re 18 years old and still in school. What’s it like balancing professional racing and education?

JC: I graduate in 8 days now. Then I head off to Ridgewater College in Minnesota. It does make it a little more difficult. You learn to balance it, and do what you need to do. During the school year, you have to discipline yourself to sit down and study instead of going out and hanging out with friends. When your grades are good, they don’t care as much when you go racing. It takes a lot to sit down and study for five hours after school each day and still do well on the weekends.

AMAP: What are your expectations going into the rest of 2012 in AMA Pro Flat Track?

JC: I’m hoping I can keep my luck going, get some more podiums, get more wins and hopefully take home a championship.

AMAP: Do you see any obstacles that you would have to overcome to take the #1 plate?

JC: There’s always obstacles… Every track you show up at, you don’t know how it’s going to play out. It’s all about how well you can ride, keep up with everyone else, keep it consistent and going well.

AMAP: What draws you to the sport? The thrill, competition or the speed?

JC: I love the speed and the atmosphere. Being there, you go fast and have such close, competitive racing. You’re not really out there racing by yourself. Not knowing what’s going on all the time really adds another level of excitement.

AMAP: Who’s your racing hero?

JC: I’ve got a few. I grew up riding with JR Schnabel. He helped me ride better and got me through some stuff. I talk with Blake Young and ride with him. Kevin Schwantz too. There a couple of people that help me out, keep me riding and make me a better rider.

AMAP: Who would you like to thank?

JC: I’d like to thank Arai helmets, Motion Pro, Schiller’s Tree Service, my mom & dad, Woody Kyle Racing, Team Cunningham, G2, Joe Dunham, Gravity Speedway, Billy Gruwel, James Hart and everyone else!