Serving with the Marines over in Iraq, Cale Jones spent every spare moment on the Internet, planning for the day he got to go racing. He bought a bike, sight unseen, and had it shipped to his house. He read and researched.
And when he got home, he turned those racing dreams into reality--with a big dose of help from some friends who couldn't stand to see him sitting on the sidelines.
Jones took to the track for the first time as an Expert in WERA competition at Grattan Raceway Park in May and proceeded to put a six-year-old Suzuki GSX-R600 on the podium five times during the weekend. It is all the more impressive when you factor in Jones' 2012 season--which included exactly zero time on the track, as Jones was sidelined due to a lack of funds.
Jones' motorcycling career started out in the dirt as a kid, and it was tough from Day One. "The first time I rode a dirtbike I wrecked it," says Jones, 27, of Newark, Ohio. "It was a friend's bike--I was in third grade and I got a huge third-degree burn on the back of my leg."
A few years later, at the age of 10, he got his own Honda XR80 and spent a few years playing around in the dirt. Then, when he was about 15 years old, he borrowed another friend's dirtbike--with distressingly familiar results.
"I was riding in the woods and I hit a tree at 30 or 40 mph or something like that," Jones recalls. "I dislocated my elbow, broke my wrist, and that was pretty much the end of dirtbikes for me."
But it wasn't the end of his interest in motorcycles. Jones spectated at an AMA Pro Road Racing event at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and was determined to get on the track himself. But first, he served in the military, spending five years on active duty, including a tour of duty overseas. He filled in the spare moments overseas by laying the foundation for his racing career. He scoured eBay until he found a 2002 Suzuki GSX-R600 and had it shipped from New York to his home in Ohio. He spent hours on the 'net figuring out how he was going to use that bike. "That's all I did--look for bikes, look for parts, read rulebooks," Jones says.
When he got back, he took the Suzuki to a track day at Carolina Motorsports Park. Then he hooked up with a high school friend who wanted to go racing, too. They took to the track with Moto Series, and in his first outing at Nelson Ledges Road Course, Jones won the 600cc Superbike Novice race.
"I won the first race! And I didn't know I'd won, because it was two waves--we had to race with the Experts, so there were just bikes all around me," Jones says. "I checked the results later and realized that I'd won."
A crash took Jones out of two races that season, yet he still finished second in the 600 Superbike Novice standings. It was a promising foundation to build on, but Jones had learned a very hard truth about racing--it ain't cheap.
"I pretty much went broke going racing in 2011," Jones says. "I couldn't get any sponsorship, so I had an Expert license and I never got to use it. I sold the 2002 GSX-R because I needed something newer. I had a streetbike that I could ride around, but ..."
To pass the time, Jones hung out on an Internet forum known as 1000RR.us, he says. Between that and a meeting with software executive and entrepreneur Mark Campanella, who owns 1000RR.us, the seeds of his racing renaissance were sown.
"I met the owner of that site, Mark Campanella. We got to be friends," Jones says. "He asked me, ‘Why aren't you racing?’ Eventually, he came to believe in me. And he bought me a bike."
The bike is a six-year-old Suzuki GSX-R600. But it's been carefully prepared. Support comes from Kyle Racing and MWC Performance in Daytona Beach, Florida. Both contacts came through the 1000RR.us site. Hanshaw Racing in Michigan built the engine, and with additional support from Motion Pro, XTRM Network, other members from the 1000RR.us site and his family--father Doug, mother Pam and sister Krystal--Jones took his Expert status to the WERA North Central Region opener at Grattan.
Jones entered the Mediumweight Solo race on Saturday--and finished second. His first race on Sunday, the C Superstock contest, almost ended in Turn One.
"I remember that I knew that Eddie Kraft was several rows back and I knew he was going to catch me pretty quick," Jones says. "I got the holeshot and I was so excited that I blew the first corner and ended up in the grass."
Jones recovered and took third. He repeated the podium finishes in C Superbike, B Superstock and B Superbike. Not a bad trophy haul for a first-time Expert in some of the most competitive classes WERA offers.
For the rest of the season, Jones wants more podiums, and the occasional trip to the top step. "I want to give Eddie (Kraft, a dominant force in Midwest club racing) a run for his money. Try to finish in the top three--and I might get some wins in there, too," Jones says. "Go to the GNF and do well there. And get faster.
"If I do well, I want to try to take it to the next step, the AMA. That's what I want to do. I'm about three or four classes away from graduating with my bachelors degree (Jones is studying electrical engineering) but I tell people that's my backup plan--racing's my primary plan."
AMA Pro Road Racing might be a ways down the road, but Jones is not missing the opportunity to enjoy what he's doing right now. "I feel like I'm on the top of the world," Jones says. "Every time, when I'm coming off the track, I am thinking, ‘This is just the best feeling. I am at the best point in my life right now.’"
Learn more about Cale Jones on his profile on RoadracingWorld.com at http://www.roadracingworld.com/members/cjones146/ .
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This article was originally published in the July 2013 Issue of Roadracing World magazine.