Auto Racing: For Lemkes, speed is in the family

Adam Lemke and his father, Rodney, right, run the 41 car that recently won a race at Stockton Speedway.

In a May 29 race at Madera Speedway, Adam Lemke trailed Jackson Dukes by 12 car lengths with five laps to go in a WSRA Mini Cup event. Lemke’s dad and crew chief, Rodney, let his son know that he was better in turns 1 and 2.
“So I started running this weird line and caught up to him in two laps,” Adam said. “I was watching where his car was bad, and coming out of turn 4 to take the white flag (final lap), we got side by side.”
Lemke and Dukes dueled for the final 1/3 mile, with Dukes winning by a bumper at the start-finish line. Even though the incoming San Benito High freshman took second, it was a moment that the Lemkes cherished early in the 2016 season. That’s because Adam realized he had driven a great race, especially near the end.
“Making up 40 feet (roughly 12 car lengths) in a Mini Cup race is not an easy thing to do,” said Lemke, who won the Tri Holiday Race No. 2 at Stockton Speedway last Saturday. “That was an exciting race and finish.”
Lemke is racing in two different cars this season: the aforementioned Mini Cup 41 car, which is a small stock car, and the No. 98 Focus Midget car, which has no roof. The 5-foot-9, 115-pound Lemke usually drives his Mini Cup car—which hits speeds up to 80 mph—at Stockton Speedway.
Lemke races the No. 41 Focus Midget car—it goes up to 100 mph—at Madera. Entering last weekend’s races, Lemke was atop the point standings in the WSRA Mini Cup series and second in the points in the Focus Midget series. There are different challenges in handling both cars.
For now, driving a Focus Midget car is more physical compared to driving a Mini Cup car.
“You can feel the air hitting you in a Focus Midget,” Lemke said. “I can feel the air pushing me back in my seat so it makes it a lot more tense. In the Focus Midget cars, one little mistake can push me into the wall. In the Mini Cup car, you’re on a big track and there’s a lot more room for error.”
Like all drivers aspiring to reach the highest level, Lemke knows it’ll take a lot of seat time along with constant improvement to advance up the different stages of the race-car driving circuit.
“Even though people tell me I’m super calm, I would like to be more calm behind the wheel,” he said. “I’d like to be better about thinking and making good decisions. I would also like to learn more about the car and know how to give information to my dad so he would know what to change with the car.”
In a world where tenths of as seconds matter, the relationship between driver and crew chief is paramount. A driver and crew chief can talk to each other constantly, but if they’re not relaying the correct words to each other, they’ll never be able to make the necessary changes to the car to potentially take it to Victory Lane.
Last Saturday, the Lemkes won the main event of the Tri Holiday Race No. 2 because of deft driving from Adam and an equally shrewd move from the pits from Rodney, who inserted the original spring valve into the 41 car before the start of the 20-lap race main event.
Rodney said before the race started, he felt the 41 car was a third-place car, because they were 2/10ths of a second slower than the top two cars in practice on Friday night. It might not sound like much, but in the world of racing, 2/10ths of a second makes a huge difference.
“On a (relatively) low horsepower car, a (superior) spring valve means a lot more momentum for the car,” Rodney said. “Out of all the changes that we’ve made to the car from three months ago, one thing that stuck out in my mind was the spring valve.”
Armed with a car that could run with the leaders, Adam had the lead late in the race only to see the two cars behind him draft off each other to catch him. But Adam showed a Midas touch, maneuvering the 41 car in a position to hold off Joshua Terry of Stockton.
“Adam pulled a crazy move out of his hat,” Rodney said. “I thought we would finish third this weekend (because that’s what the times indicated). But it all kind of came together for us at the end. We’ve been fortunate with having good equipment and good sponsors.”
The Lemkes have picked up national sponsors in the last couple of months, and locally they’ve been supported by Nick Boffa, who is the general manager and owner of Hogue Brothers Collision Center, along with Art’s Tire Services. The Lemkes will continue to race almost every weekend until the season-finale on Oct. 17.
Lemke is a student of the sport, doing what is all the rage these days: spending plenty of time in simulating races via video games. It’s well documented that prospective NASCAR drivers use video games to simulate car setups, log laps and become familiar with the nuances of each venue.
For Adam, using a video game simulator helps him in a variety of ways. For example, a typical scenario will have Adam in a 45-lap race but with a car that goes only 30 laps on fuel. As drivers go up in levels, they must learn how to drive the car in such a way that it conserves fuel.
“Playing a game on a race simulator helps Adam learn about pit strategy,” Rodney said. “You have to figure out when to pit along with learning different strategies going up against the competition. It makes you think like a driver, so that you have to compartmentalize what you want to do three laps ahead of time.”
If all goes as planned, the Lemkes will be racing in a K & M Late Model Car series, which is basically a bigger version of the Mini Cup car. The timeline for that is three years away, and in between then the father-son duo plan on enjoying the ride.

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