After rising through the short track ranks in Florida, Jake Finch will be taking on the best of the best in Super Late Model racing this year. He’ll do so as part of the resurgence of Phoenix Racing, working alongside his father James Finch.
Finch discussed his plans for the 2021 racing season on Speed51’s “The Bullring” Tuesday. He admitted that even he can’t say for certain what sparked his dad’s desire to reopen Phoenix Racing following a pair of strong Pro Late Model showings for the younger Finch with Anthony Campi Racing.
“We ran pretty good, obviously,” said Finch. “I guess that sparked dad’s eyes. When dad gets rolling, he goes on his sprees. It was all him.”
Along with a win at Watermelon Capital Speedway at Crisp Motorsports Park in October, Finch finished second in a photo finish to Connor Okrzesik in his Allen Turner Pro Late Model Series debut at Five Flags Speedway. That performance helped put Finch’s name on the map as a rising star, even if it didn’t end with a checkered flag in his hand.
“I got pretty good attention there, but it is what it is. I wish we could have won it, we could have gotten more attention, but it’s not really about that. I was happy to go to the next race, do what we did at the Snowflake with that whole team. It was very memorable, that whole experience with Campi and everyone there.”
Another runner-up finish in the Snowflake 100 reinforced Finch’s ability. He will now step up to Super Late Models racing for his famed father, while also occasionally competing in Outlaw races.
“It’s a pretty cool deal we have going here. My dad is starting Phoenix back up. We’re going to run mostly Super Late Model races throughout the year, the big races. We’ll run mostly Super races, and some Outlaw races to go along with that.”
Finch is particularly looking forward to being able to work with the family team on the cars he will be racing in 2021. He takes pride in understanding the inner workings of his race cars and being able to prepare and fix them just as well as he can drive them.
“The main thing is, I want to be in the shop. I want to know what’s going on. If I wreck it, I want to be able to fix it and know what I need to do. It just means a lot more. You don’t want to tear up as much stuff if you put the body on it. I think that adds a lot of gratefulness to the racing aspect of it.
“In my opinion, I can’t get on somebody for not doing something in a period of time if I can’t do it myself. I can’t tell somebody how to pour concrete if I don’t know how to do it myself. I feel like, when I’m in the car driving, I can feel more of the car when I know what every part in the car does. I can help with adjustments more if I know what the car does.”
An exciting aspect of the return of Phoenix Racing, for both Jake Finch and longtime fans of the sport, is that many familiar faces are involved in the operation. With Eddie Mercer as a driving coach and longtime Phoenix Racing crew chief Johnny Allen among those taking part in the return, it’s like the band is getting back together – and sharing some stories of the good old days with their new driver along the way.
“That’s my favorite part, all the stories I get told about my dad. To have a driver coach like Eddie Mercer, that adds to the fun. It’s fun to have the old crew together. My dad’s old crew chief for Jeff Purvis was Johnny Allen, and he’s going to be my crew chief, too.
“It’s been really helpful to have the opportunity to be around some great people. All of my dad’s friends are great people. I’ve learned a lot from being around them and listening to them talk. You can ask my dad anything and he’ll have an answer for you. Whether you want to hear it or not, you’re going to hear it.”
While James Finch can sometimes be the toughest critic on his son, Jake wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Just the way he is on me, I think it makes me a better driver. That race in October we won, I asked, ‘Was that good?’ and he said, ‘I guess so.’ He’s not going to say you did good unless you did good, and even then it’s hard to get a ‘Good job’ out of him.”
The team plans on making its debut at the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at New Smyrna Speedway. Finch is excited to get on track, and knows fans are just as excited to see the familiar No. 51, painted much like the Phoenix Racing entries piloted by Jeff Purvis, back on track.
“I grew up at the race track running around, being a little minion and bothering everyone. Now, it’s pretty cool to do it and have them help me do it. It’s cool to see the fans excited for it, and to see my dad come back is cool for me.”
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51 Content Supervisor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51 Photo