Garrett Gerloff may have won the Dynojet Pro Sportbike Provisional Race on Sunday by 10 seconds, but Jake Zemke was the fastest rider on a Honda, finishing a season-best fourth place.
Though Zemke described it as a “ lonely day” on his GEICO Motorcycle Honda CBR600, Zemke said he was pleased with his season-best fourth-place result in the final leg of the GEICO Superbike Shootout, held Sunday at Miller Motorsports Park near Salt Lake City.
Zemke jumped from the second row to third place at the start and said he hardly saw another rider during the race. The front-runners spread out across the 2.2-mile West Course and rode out the 20-lap race.
“Bobby Fong was the only rider I saw, really,” Zemke said. “He ran into the back of a rider at the start and sat up like something maybe was wrong with his bike. He must have dropped way back at that point because I didn’t see him, or anyone really, until Bobby passed me (on Lap 9). That was all the excitement I had.
“To have the bike perform like it did is very encouraging,” he said. “We definitely feel as though we’ve closed the gap on the guys that have been ahead of us, and that’s a real testament to the crew and this team. It’s satisfying as a rider to reward the crew guys with a strong race because they do the same amount of work, if not more, when we don’t do so well as when we do, so this is for them.”
The uptick in performance is coming at the perfect time for Zemke as the road racing tour immediately shifts to historic Road America next weekend. Pointing to Sunday’s result as a highlight, Zemke said the three-race GEICO Superbike Shootout was a hit.
“First and foremost, it gave us a chance to race out west with this huge core of motorcycle racing fans out here,” Zemke said. “It also filled the gap between Daytona and the rest of the AMA Pro schedule. Most importantly, we were able to work on this bike in real race conditions and make it better. And I always love racing close to home (San Luis Obispo area). I’ll be home tonight.”
In the RaceFeulZ Pro Superbike Privisional Race, Geico’s Chris Ulrich reached the podium for the first time this year, taking third place 22 seconds behing Josh Hayes’ Yamaha YZF-R1 bike.
“It’s been a fun weekend starting all the way back on Friday,” Ulrich said. “We were pretty much in around fifth all weekend. We qualified fifth but we were able to close the gap quite a bit, and I was really happy about that.
“With the Superbikes, it’s all about keeping the gap close, and we were able to do that here. I got a really good start and was fourth off the line. I kept thinking, ‘Keep your head down, keep calm, and keep going.’ I came around one lap and I saw a rider down, and next thing I know I’m in third place. I was pulling away from the guy behind me and I’m pacing along with the rider in second place. It was a good feeling.”
Ulrich said without the consistency he had the entire weekend, his podium finish may have been harder to secure. At a track known for large gaps between riders, Ulrich knew he had to be almost perfect.
“I put myself in a good position by having a good start and qualifying well. I did everything right this weekend, and I feel like I got rewarded for it. It’s been a long time since I’ve been on the podium, and I’m going to enjoy it. I’m glad I can reward my team and my family.
“We still have a lot of work to do and to continue to work on closing the gap, but to get the trophy means you’re doing something right on the bike. It means you worked hard to get there. I’m just definitely super stoked.”
Ulrich will look to ride his momentum when the AMA Pro Road Racing Series season continues with the Subway SuperBike Doubleheader, May 30 to June 1, at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis.