It always turns out like this, doesn’t it?
A dad with a famous last name in motorsports isn’t exactly enthusiastic that his kid wants to race. It’s too expensive, and worse, the politics are often so messy.
James Finch probably liked the idea of spending the next few years at baseball diamonds near Panama City, Florida instead of aged short tracks across the United States. Been there, done that, after all. But like most racers, Jake Finch is stubbornly passionate, and couldn’t be denied.
“My dad never really pushed this on me at all,” Finch told Short Track Scene on Thursday night. “Really, he never wanted me to do it at all. He always kind of tried to push me away from it. So, I’ve always liked motorcycles and dirt bikes, stuff like that when I was little and always knew I wanted to race. There was no question.”
At first, the younger Finch talked his dad into karting near their Lynn Haven, Florida home. Then came the Outlaw Stock built by Derrick Griffin and Port City Race Cars.
When Finch won at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola on July 31, the next step was inevitable for the veteran NASCAR team owner and longtime short track benefactor.
Jake Finch took Phoenix Racing to Victory Lane in the Outlaw Stock race tonight.
Jake is James' 15-year-old son. pic.twitter.com/ZOXcDeCjgc
— Matt Weaver (@MattWeaverAW) August 1, 2020
He was going to have to get his son in a Pro Late Model.
“At first, he would get mad when I brought it up because he didn’t want to talk about racing too much,” Finch said. “But I kept trying to pick his brain because he’s so smart about it. I just wanted to learn as much as I could from him.
“We usually watch the races on TV every weekend and now my dad will point out things that he thinks I should know.”
The next step for James Finch was connecting his young son with someone else who knows what he is doing. He immediately looked across the state in Sarasota to see if Anthony Campi Racing had both interest and an opening.
“I’ve been friends with James for a while and he would call me occasionally just to talk racing,” Campi said. “It kind of just transpired from there. We talked about getting Jake in a test or two just to see how it goes.”
That Pro Late Model test came at Watermelon Capital Speedway earlier this month, and it went well, with Finch adapting efficiently to a car with more grip and equal power to his Outlaw Stock.
“He’s winning races now in a car with eight inch tires and basically the same power as a Pro Late,” Campi said. “I mean, those things look like they are way more of a handful to drive on a grip aspect level — especially at a place as abrasive as Pensacola.
“So, when he got in our Pro Late Model, he felt like Superman with all that additional grip. It’s just a matter of honing his pure speed and getting him to be consistent and smoother for tire wear. Now, it’s just a matter of working on his fundamentals — the braking and gas — the loading of the front end and all the things you have to refine when you get a diamond in the rough.”
They will make their racing debut together in October 10 in a Pro Late Model at Watermelon Capital. Their next outing will be October 24 at Five Flags. The goal is to be prepared for the Snowflake 100 in December but that’s all dependent on Finch’s progress after those first two races.
“We have two or three races circled right now,” the younger Finch said. “My dad knows what he’s doing. We’re playing it week-by-week, but he’s been around a long time that he knows where I need to be.
“If I don’t perform in the car or if I’m not performing in general, he’ll take me out of the car for sure.”
To that end, Finch is keeping things in perspective. He recognizes the opportunity and responsibility of being able to drive a Late Model for Campi, but he’s trying to keep the rest of his life as typical as possible.
He will remain in school and his favorite summer pastime is baseball.
“I think we have a good balance,” Finch said. “Baseball is what I do right after school, which is really cool. It’s more like a hobby. Racing is what I want to do for a living someday.
“My dad does a good job of keeping me straight with all the things I need to do. My mom too. It’s a really good thing.
“I think it’s important to have baseball and friends because my dad says you can get lost in racing, get too big time, and forget everything else that’s important. I want to stay humble and be friends with everyone, be a nice person. That’s my main goal in life. I hope that helps me be a better racer too.”