AMA Flat Track: Johnny Lewis Interview
AMA Grand National Racing
After finishing his rookie AMA Flat Track Championship season 10th overall, Johnny Lewis began 2011 by taking the pole at the season-opener in Daytona last month.
Lewis did this with an injured ankle, and went on to capture his career-best finish, taking second behind race-winner Sammy Halbert.
But Lewis didn’t stop there; the Scott Powersports/Triple J Racing/DR.D/Pit Posse/Monster Energy Honda CRF450R rider also took second at Round 2 in Daytona the following evening.
The 21-year old’s pole-position qualifying effort and tactical riding earned him second place in the 2011 AMA Flat Track Championship standings after two of 21 rounds.
Lewis, who currently runs the National number 10 plate on his Honda CRF450R in the Harley-Davidson Insurance Pro Flat Track series, has much experience in motorcycle racing on a professional level. His previous AMA Pro Racing experience landed him on the podium in several Supermoto races, including the youngest rider to win an Unlimited Class race (2008).
In the following interview, we catch up with JL10 to find out what the racing world is missing.
Q. Where are you from?
Johnny Lewis: Coatsville, Pennsylvania. Born and raised.
Q. What was your first experience racing?
Johnny Lewis: My Dad got me a bike when I was five for Christmas. He always had bikes but never raced. My first race was a motocross race at Pagoda (Pagoda Motorcyle Club Reading, Pa.) and the next weekend was at the Piston Poppers TT Track (Parkesburg, Pa.) not really knowing that it wasn’t a Motocross race.
My Dad didn’t know the difference between Motocross and Flat track. Who knows, I might have been a Pro Motocross racer by now if my Dad would have stuck with Motocross.
Q. When I first heard about Johnny Lewis, you were racing in the AMA Pro Supermoto Championship. That series is no longer running…what do you contribute to that?
Johnny Lewis: My first supermoto experience was with KTM in 2005, they came to me and we did a test, eventually ended up riding for them from 2005 to 2007. In those years the series was sponsored by Red Bull.
Red Bull dumped a lot of money into big events. We had some crazy events like Reno, Vegas, and some totally off the wall events. And then just as the years progress after 2007 the tracks started getting, not as cool, not as many venues. 2008 we had about seven or eight races, it was actually run, wasn’t by the AMA, it was a company call XTRM.
The year after that they didn’t really have a series. It’s something that really could have picked up with some marketing and getting involved in the sport a little bit different. There is ways to promote stuff cheaper and try growing an amateur base, maybe before.
A little bit more attention on the amateur side of things because that’s the people that follow the sport. It’s a shame, we had TV coverage on cable and major networks but many people didn’t know the races were on.
Q. How is your return to flat track going?
Johnny Lewis: It’s been going pretty well. In 2009 I returned to flat track; I bought a Kawasaki 450 from Mike Scott (Scott’s Power Sports, Coopersburg, Pa.). I made my first 3 Mains in Daytona and Springfield TT. I then tore my ACL in a Supermoto race and that kind of put me out for the ’09 season.
Last year we started out the season pretty good, I left Daytona in a 3-way tie for second place. To be a series champion you have to ride both classes and we were working on a twin 750 then but didn’t have it done yet so we missed the next round and dropped out of the points. Later I ran my first event on a twin, and this was the first time this Kawasaki powered twin with a custom Mike Scott designed frame raced. We did all of our own set-up since no data existed.
Q. Can you describe the different tracks AMA Pro Flat Track runs throughout the season and what bikes are used in each discipline?
Johnny Lewis: Short Track is 1/10 – 3/8 mile dirt oval. A TT has right and left had turns with a jump and that’s the only time we get to run front brakes. On Short tracks and TT’s we run 450cc stock motocross framed bikes with 6 inch lowered suspension and 19 inch wheels.
Half-Mile and Mile oval tracks are clay or cushion track like a horse track that we sometimes run on. We run the 650-750cc twins with fully custom frames (“Framers”) and that’s where we built a Kawasaki (650cc parallel twin) to race against the Harley’s that have been dominate for 30 years.
Q. What are your goals for the rest of the year?
Johnny Lewis: Obviously we want to do the best that we can and the Championship is what everyone wants. I think we’ve got one of the best programs out there with my team and the bikes and everybody around me. We have all the resources to go out there and win a Championship; obviously it’s going to be a tall order in my second full season. I’d be excited to finish the championship in top three, I definitely want more podiums.
Q. What are your long term goals?
Johnny Lewis: I’d like to make a name for myself in this sport and go out there and win championships. For how long? I don’t know. I don’t know where it will take me but I’ve always got something on my mind. Just last November Mike Hacker, former Grand National race winner, started a school called Ride Academy to help up and coming flat track racers or even pro riders and Vet riders to rider safer and faster. We have only done three schools so far but I love teaching people. It’s something I really see myself doing, not just these next couple of years but down the road.
See Johnny and the rest of the 2011 Grand National Championship riders, including the retiring Chris Carr (Honda) and points leader Sammy Halbert (Yamaha), in action April 16 at DuQuoin Short Track at the Southern Illinois Center, DuQuoin, Ill.
Johnny Lewis would like to thank the following sponsors: Scott Powersports, Dubach Racing Development (DR.D), Saddleman, Triple J Racing, Pit Posse, Monster Energy. AXO, Arai, Kicker Audio, K&N Filters, Matrix Racing Products, Axis Designs, Silkolene, Penske Racing Shocks, Pro Moto Billet, Factory Box, Engine Ice, ALL Balls, Boyesen, TRX Fitness Anywhere, Myers Trucking, Metro Racing, FLUIDYNE, Violation Goggles, Victory Circle Graphics, ActionSportsTV.com, and MotoPR.