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Jake Zemke Will Race a Ducati Superbike at Indianapolis

Last time Jake Zemke raced an AMA national he finished on the podium. That was last 11 months ago at New Jersey Motorsports Park, where, on Saturday in the pouring rain, the 2008 AMA Formula Xtreme champion put his GEICO-backed Honda CBR600RR third behind the late Dane Westby and current MotoAmerica Superstock 1000 points leader Jake Gagne.

In his new rider-management role with Wasserman Media Group, Zemke has attended all but one MotoAmerica race this year, but round eight at Indianapolis Motor Speedway next week will be the first time he has cinched up a helmet.

“Racing is what I’ve done my whole life,” the 39-year-old former flat-tracker said. “This is my 19th season racing professionally in the AMA paddock. Even in the years that I didn’t have a full-time deal, I still made a couple appearances.”

Zemke wasn’t sure if a seat would materialize this season. “Luckily,” he said, “friends put something together for these last couple races.” The 26-time AMA national winner is entered in Superbike on a Ducati 1199 Panigale R under the TPL Racing banner. “The bike is owned by Rod Snyder and built by Desmo Veloce in Phoenix,” Zemke said. “Rod also owns the Ducatis that I raced in 2012.”

One of the team’s sponsors, Ducati Omaha, has rented 2.15-mile Motorsports Park Hastings in Hastings, Nebraska, for a two-day track event this weekend. Zemke will get his first taste of the big V-twin on Saturday. “I rode a stock Panigale when it first came out,” he said. “It still had the electronic suspension and all that stuff, so I don’t know what to expect from a race-prepped bike.”

Like most MotoAmerica regulars, Zemke has never raced at IMS. He has, however, been to the “Racing Capital of the World” twice before, most recently in 2008 as a spectator at the inaugural Red Bull Indianapolis GP. Five years earlier, Zemke made a few laps of the old Formula 1 road course as part of an AMA Superbike test.

“To me,” he said, “it's just another racetrack, another race. That’s how I look at all of them. At the same time, you can’t ignore the history of Indianapolis. Man, I tell you, when I was there for the GP, the facility itself—the size and scale of it—was just mind blowing.”

Regarding his performance goals for the weekend, Zemke is in wait-and-see mode. “I’d be dreaming to say we’re going to beat up on the factory guys,” he said. “We’re showing up with one bike in a van. I’d love to be the fifth-place Superbike behind the four factory bikes. That being said, those guys are strong and dialed in by this point in the year. It’s a tall order, but if I gel well with the bike, we should be up there.”

Zemke also plans to contest the final round of the series, September 11-13, at New Jersey Motorsports Park. “It’s a fun, little track,” he said. “Like I said, the last podium I had was at New Jersey, so I’m definitely looking forward to going back.”

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