The 16th birthday is an exciting time for kids in America, the age where you can get behind the wheel and learn how to drive a car. But for those aspiring to be the next big racing star, you tend to also learn how to wheel machines with just a bit more power. For Jake Finch, that’s certainly the case.
Son of former NASCAR team owner James Finch, Jake has had racing in his blood from Day 1. At age 15, he learned how to wheel a Pro Late Model on the tracks of the Deep South, catching everyone’s attention with a pair of runner-up performances at Five Flags Speedway in 2020, including in the Snowflake 100.
Moving to Super Late Models in 2021, the season has turned into the school of hard knocks for the youngster from Lynn Haven, Florida, enduring one unlucky break after another since Florida Speedweeks in February. But last Saturday, he and his Phoenix Racing No. 51 team rose to the top at New Smyrna Speedway, with a win in the David Rogers Super Late Models.
Now, he heads back to Pensacola for this weekend’s Southern Super Series / Blizzard Series doubleheader on Friday and Saturday at Five Flags with renewed optimism.
“It was a fun time down there, anytime you can win is a great boost for your confidence as well as the team. To get a win, no matter where it is, is an awesome experience for sure,” Finch told Speed51.
Coming off the highest of highs at the Snowflake last year with the Campi guys in the Pro Lates, then stepping up to the higher fence with these Super guys is always difficult. You underestimate how difficult it is to run with them, especially in the Southern Super Series where you got 30 cars every race. These cars handle differently, I think I’ve learned a lot as I’ve gone through the ranks.
Known among many as a notorious track to master for drivers of all ages and skill, Finch credits a couple of racing greats, past and present, for helping him to get a familiarity with Five Flags at his young age.
“I’ve had great mentors in the races I’ve run there. That’s the first place I’ve ever been on with a full-size racecar. I’ve been there a lot, I’ve been on the track more than any other, and I got guys like Eddie Mercer and Jeff Purvis, those big names that know their way around their pretty well. Even Chase Elliott has helped me around that place,” Finch explained.
“It’s one of the hardest tracks in the country, in my opinion. It’s a tough place to get a handle of. I’m glad it’s my best track, if you’re going to have a best track that’s where it needs to be. You win the Snowball Derby, you’re somebody.”
With Saturday’s win at New Smyrna still fresh, Finch believes that the timing could not be anymore perfect for him to produce his first major breakout performance in a Super Late Model.
I am very excited for it. It’s a big opportunity to prove that we got something rolling here. I hope that the high we were on last weekend can continue into this weekend and that we stay on that same platform. Confidence is a big thing in this racing world. I think we got a good shot this weekend to prove that I belong here even though we didn’t have a good start to the year.
As is with the case for all drivers, there will be a certain amount of focus on the Snowball Derby in December. But for Finch, the Derby prep will not be limited to this weekend or just races at Five Flags Speedway.
“Every Super race at any track where I get seat time, that’s preparation for the Snowball. I don’t have a lot of experience in almost any racecar, I got about 20 races. This weekend is a huge opportunity to get some experience, and it will help us out.”
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51 Northeast Correspondent – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51