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Dedicated Indianapolis Rider Fulfills Big Goal by Racing across Yard of Bricks at IMS
Dedicated Indianapolis Rider Fulfills Big Goal by Racing across Yard of Bricks at IMS

When 19-year-old Indianapolis native Nolan Lamkin races across the famed Yard of Bricks at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this weekend in MotoAmerica’s Supersport class, he will mark one item off a long list of dreams he hopes to accomplish in his motorcycle racing career.

Lamkin got his first bike at age 2 and was racing by 9. Soon after that, his fourth-grade class took a field trip to the Racing Capital of the World, where he stood at the Yard of Bricks and wondered if he’d ever get the chance to race competitively at IMS.

At the time, Lamkin thought his chance would come in MotoGP’s Red Bull Indianapolis GP, which raced on the 16-turn, 2.591-mile motorcycle road course from 2008-2015. Lamkin, who attended every MotoGP event at IMS, was ecstatic when MotoAmerica announced the Superbikes at the Brickyard weekend for this year.

“It’s so freaking cool,” he said. “I always dreamed of the day that I could maybe ride here. So, now that I’m coming back, it’s so cool. Indianapolis is so special, because you tell anybody about Indianapolis, and they know what it is. It’s such an iconic track that has it’s own history. You come into the place, and it’s so unique. All the other tracks we go to are cool, but it’s not the same feeling.”

Lamkin, who graduated from Carmel High School, started racing professionally in MotoAmerica’s KTM Cup in 2015 at age 14. He’s taken an unconventional, and at times challenging, route to accomplishing his dreams.

Lamkin raced his way into MotoAmerica’s middleweight race class virtually on his own. While he started racing at age 9, he never received professional coaching until age 14. That means that for five years Lamkin was self-taught, or as he likes to put it, “five years of not knowing anything.” He did have the help of his dad, who drag raced motorcycles in club events but never professionally road-raced motorcycles.

Now, Lamkin has a professional coach in Miami, a long way from his home on the northeast side of Indianapolis, and a trainer that he works out with 25 hours a week via Zoom. But Lamkin is still doing most of it on his own.

Lamkin’s Cycle Gear Racing team consists of himself and his dad, plus two additional crew members during race weekends. When away from the racetrack, Lamkin does all the work on his No. 52 Yamaha YZF-R6 bike and drives it himself to every race on the MotoAmerica Supersport schedule.

Still, the small team with big dreams is performing well during a 2020 season defined by the COVID-19 pandemic. Lamkin sits ninth in the points standings coming off one of his best race weekends of the season Sept. 18-20 at Barber Motorsports Park. He finished ninth in Race 1 and seventh in Race 2. His best performance of the season was a fifth-place finish Aug. 30 at Ridge Motorsports Park in Shelton, Washington.

“We’re a very small team compared to everyone else out here,” he said. “I’m on a bike that’s 5 years old. Everything that we’ve done this year has been really, really good. We’re on the brink of reaching top fives, and we’ve made some really good progress the past couple rounds.

“I’ve learned so much. I work on my own bikes. I drive the rig to and from the tracks. No other racer in our class does that. In some ways, it’s good. I will be on the bike and feel something weird, and I know what it is.

“People want to look at the results, but you got to look at the stuff behind it. That’s the stuff that I think is cool. And that’s the thing with racing; anything can happen, especially with bikes. They’re so different than cars. You move your body 6 inches, and that changes the way you’re going through a corner. That’s why I love this sport.”

Lamkin has progressed from a partial Supersport season in 2018 to a 15th-place finish in the points standings in 2019. This season he has improved to ninth in the standings.

And he has big goals and more big dreams for his career.

He hopes one day to move to Europe and compete in the MotoGP World Championship. Instead of making a comfortable living in the United States, Lamkin says it’s worth the risk to move thousands of miles away and compete with the best motorcycle riders in the world.

But don’t mistake that international desire for a lack of caring and involvement in the Indianapolis community. Lamkin hopes to turn his motorcycle racing career into something big so that he can give back to the city that raised him, and for which his nickname “Indy” comes from.

The biggest American hub of motorcycle road racing is in California, which is why Lamkin didn’t start racing professionally until age 14 and struggled to find a coach. He believes that there is plenty of two-wheel potential in Indianapolis and the greater Midwest, and he wants to help cultivate that.

“After (an international career) and once I’m done with that, I want to make my own training facility, and then we can have talent and stuff here,” he said. “Because a kid in Spain versus a kid here isn’t any different. That’s something that I didn’t have. If I can be that for somebody else, that would mean the world.

“But I’m also still only 19 years old.”

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