Auto Sports: Lemke on the fast track

Adam Lemke, an eighth grader at Spring Grove, has won numerous trophies since he started racing several years ago.

The upcoming 2016 race season will go a long way in determining just how far Adam Lemke can advance in the race-car driving world. Lemke, an eighth-grader at Spring Grove, has won too many races to count—“I’ve lost track,” the 13-year-old said—but he’ll be taking a big step up in competition this year.
“We’re moving on to bigger and faster cars (from Quarter Midgets to Mini Cup and Focus Midget cars),” said Rodney Lemke, who is Adam’s father and crew chief. “It’ll be a transition for sure racing with the big boys.”
Despite all of his victories, Lemke said it was a third-place finish at the Western Grands in Morgan Hill in mid-June that has proven to be the most memorable performance in his burgeoning career.
“That race ranks the highest because of the competition level,” said Lemke who has been racing competitively since he was 9 years old. “We got a bad call, sending us to the back of the back. But we were able to work our way back to the front and finish third.”
Lemke was around 6 years old when his dad took him to a NASCAR race in Fontana, where Lemke first got into a Quarter Midgets car. That moment whetted his appetite for racing, and he’s been hooked with speed ever since. But Rodney made sure to introduce other sports in Adam’s life, including football, basketball and soccer.
“I wanted to make sure racing was really something he wanted to do,” Rodney said. “It’s definitely more expensive than buying a football.”
Lemke was born in San Jose and lived in Mountain View until he was 5 before moving to Hollister. The 5-foot-6, 110-pound Lemke said he remembers playing organized football “for a couple of years” in Mountain View, and that he plans on putting the pads on again next year when he’s a freshman in high school.
“When it’s not racing season, I’m all about football,” he said. “It kind of worries me that I could get injured and miss some races, but I’ll try my best not to get hit.”
Lemke loves competition and handling a race car at high speeds. However, it’s the drive home after a race that he loves the most.
“That’s probably my favorite time, because I talk with my dad about how the race went,” he said.
Said Rodney: “The drive home is a bonding experience for both of us. It gives us common ground to connect on. The money I pay now, I would pay double for the experiences we’ve had together through racing.”
Race car drivers need to possess excellent hand-eye coordination, a deft touch and fearlessness.
“The kid is a natural,” Rodney said. “He makes setting the car up a lot easier.”
Lemke said he loves having his dad as his crew chief; in the Mini Cup races Lemke and his dad are connected through a wireless headset, just like the professionals. And just like any race when a car is not handling well, it’s up to Lemke to give specific details on what the car is failing to do.
In a Mini Cup race, Lemke has his foot on the pedal the entire time, traveling around the track at 80 mph. Lemke wants to win the rookie of the year for the Mini Cup series this season and then rookie of the year for the Focus Midgets series next season.
Whatever happens, Lemke has tremendous perspective on life, as he recently endured a months-long health scare. In mid-August, Lemke had to be hospitalized for a liver problem that at one point had multiple doctors fearing a case of lymphoma.
However, much to the relief of the Lemkes, that never materialized, and Lemke was only recently cleared to take part in P.E. classes a month ago. During the months-long ordeal, Lemke lost weight and had jaundice, a condition in which a portion of his eyes turned yellow.
“I didn’t let the thought of having cancer put me down or anything,” he said. “It kind of shocked me that I could have cancer, but I tried not to think about it too much.”
On Jan. 2, Lemke won a race at Baylands in Morgan Hill, just the latest in a career filled with many of them.

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