Drake Kemper is a funny guy. Not on the track. There he is 100 percent serious, but away from the track Kemper spent time doing stand-up comedy. He can perform on and off the track. Mazda Motorsports caught up with the MRT24 Scholarship winner to take a look back at 2015 and a look ahead to this season.
How would you rate your rookie season in MX-5 Cup?
My rookie season in MX-5 Cup was incredible, a ten on a ten-point scale. It was truly filled with all of the ups and downs you could expect with an experienced field of great drivers all gunning for the championship. While I didn’t win the championship, our team did and that’s what this sport is all about. Without my team, I wouldn’t be racing. So for us to win it was awesome. And no one deserved it more than John Dean.
What was the highlight?
As for the highlight of my season, it’s hard to beat round one of the championship, my first race in the car, and I won! As Kenton Koch said, “You only get ONE chance to win your first race,” and I did just that. HOWEVER, the real highlight of the season was our Triple Podium at Road Atlanta and sealing up the championship for Sick Sideways.
What was the biggest surprise from racing in the SBRS class to the main class?
The biggest surprise changing from the Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge to the Idemitsu Series was the intensity. In the SBRS series there was only nine competitors, so we would work together to get through the slower Cup cars and then battle for the last five minutes. In the Idemitsu series, I had only my teammates to rely on to work together. Everyone else tries to pass you at all time. 45 minutes of intense race craft was certainly a surprise.
What was the roughest part of the season?
Like I said, my season had its ups and its downs. The roughest part of my season was definitely when I got taken out at Road America. I had been unintentionally bumped off the track while running in second place, and went all the way back to 26th place. I passed 15 cars in two laps, and while running in 11th, trying to catch the leaders, the car in front of me spun in the kink and hit both walls. The car ricocheted into the middle of the track and at 112 MPH I couldn’t react fast enough. My car was heavily damaged and I had to retire for that race.
What advice would you give to a rookie entering the MX-5 Cup?
If I could give any advice to a rookie entering the MX-5 Cup, it would be don’t try to prove you’re the best. Too many people go for very optimistic passes and moves that results in carnage. Work together, learn from the people that have been in the series and don’t ruin anybody else’s race. There is an immensely talented field of drivers, any one of the top 15 drivers can win a race; but in order to finish first, you must first finish.
How are you approaching the new season with the new car?
Approaching the 2016 season is a large learning curve. The car is 100% new. It’s an even playing field. Nobody has the upper hand. So we are going to work harder than all of the other teams, test more than all of the other teams, know these cars inside and out, and give it our absolute best effort at having the best set-up all season long.
How have you been training off-season?
It has been difficult for me to retain a solid training regimen as I have been sick during most of the off-season. Between traveling and being sick, I can’t exactly maintain the same amount of training as last season. But I am still working out hard and eating nutritiously to be the best and most prepared version of myself for this incredibly exciting new series. I can’t wait to finally get to drive the world famous Watkins Glen! And watching 40+ of these cars go down the corkscrew is going to be quite the sight!
What are you doing on the business front for the 2016 season?
For 2016, I am looking for an active corporate partner. A partnership that benefits everyone involved. Sick Sideways could really benefit from an exclusive web-series TV Show surrounding our team as well as our partners. From pre-season testing, to each and every round of the season. We would follow our journey, go visit our partners’ companies, keep everyone up to date on what is going on; more-so than just articles after every round. I have an absolutely incredible production team, and know that we could put together something brilliant. National advertising, spokesperson, VIP treatment at each race, a pop-up tent for giveaways/signing/promotion, corporate retreats at The Thermal Club for their employees where I can teach them hands-on how to race cars, and the web-series are just a few of the things that I can offer potential partners. I have no doubt that Sick Sideways has what it takes to win back-to-back championships, and we have a KILLER drive line-up.