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MOTOR RACING : Jason Pridmore Was Born to Ride

October 02, 1992|SHAV GLICK

Sports lore is full of stories about doting fathers who put tiny footballs, bats, gloves and other athletic equipment into their newborn's cribs.

Reg Pridmore went one step beyond. He bought a tiny Italian motorcycle, a 50cc Mini-Bambini, before his son Jason was born. By the time Jason was 2, he was putt-putting around the family home in Santa Barbara.

The elder Pridmore later became the American Motorcyclist Assn.'s first superbike champion in 1976 and won the title again in 1977 and '78. Now his son aspires to make them America's first father-son superbike champions.

Jason, 23, has a way to go yet, but he seems right on course. With one race remaining--the AMA national championships next week at Texas World Speedway--he trails three-time champion Scott Russell of Smyrna, Ga., 114-94, in the 750cc national supersport class, which is one step below superbike. Russell is also the superbike leader.

"My whole life has been sort of a training session," Jason Pridmore said. "From the first time I sat on my Mini-Bambini, I wanted to go fast. I still do."

Going fast now means about 165 m.p.h. while riding handlebar-to-handlebar around twisting road courses such as Willow Springs, Laguna Seca, Road America and Daytona.

"I tagged along with my dad so much when he was racing that I feel almost like I learned to race through osmosis," Pridmore said. "Motorcycles are something I've always been around."

Although racing apparently is in Pridmore's genes, golf almost got in the way of his racing career. From 1983 to 1988, golf was his passion. He was good enough to win the Thousand Oaks and Ojai Valley junior championships, and played on the Ventura High and Ventura College teams. He still carries a four handicap.

"Golf and racing a motorcycle couldn't be farther apart," Jason said. "Yet there are certain things about both that are similar. You must learn to keep your composure after a bad lap or a bad hole, and you have to have total concentration if you want to succeed in either one."

Four years ago, Pridmore went to work for his father, teaching motorcycle safety techniques to street riders. Class Safety Schools conducted 36 one-day schools at 20 locations during the last year. They also regenerated Pridmore's interest in racing.

"The more I rode, giving demonstrations, the more I realized I wanted to get out and go fast again," he said. "In 1989, I decided to give racing a try, and, for a couple of years, I rode whenever and wherever I could. In 1991 I rode for Team Suzuki Endurance, but I felt like I wasn't getting anywhere."

He ended the year by winning the unlimited supersport Race of Champions at Daytona Beach, Fla., when he came from the last row to pass the field. That convinced him that he should set his sights on winning the superbike championship. With his mechanic, Jake VanVleet, he started preparing for it by racing a Kawasaki as a privateer this year in the supersport class.

At Brainerd, Minn., Pridmore handed Russell his first defeat in three years when he got off the line in front and led all the way. Two races later, he again upset Russell with a come-from-behind victory at Road Atlanta. He also had second-, third- and two fifth-place finishes.

Next season, Pridmore says he hopes to move up to the superbike class, perhaps with the powerful Yamaha team of Vance and Hines. Meantime, he will stay busy as head instructor for Class Safety Schools and his golf, shooting in the low 70s when he can find time to play.

"I'm the luckiest 23-year-old in the country," he said.

Motor Racing Notes

SPEEDWAY BIKES--Defending champion Mike Faria, who won the California state championship last week at Glen Helen Park, will go for his third consecutive U.S. Nationals victory Saturday night at the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa. He will face 15 others, including Billy Hamill and Ronnie Correy of the British Speedway League, in a series of match races to determine the 1992 champion. Former champions entered include Bobby Schwartz, Steve Lucero and Brad Oxley. . . . Matt Becker won the U.S. junior championship last Sunday at Victorville.

MIDGETS--The first Kara Hendrick Memorial race will be run Saturday night at Cajon Speedway, where the midget racer was killed last October, five minutes after she had set a track record in qualifying for a United States Auto Club race. Proceeds from the program will go to the Kara Hendrick Memorial Scholarship Foundation, founded by her parents, Art and Renee Hendrick of Chino. In addition to USAC midgets and three-quarter midgets, there will be a match of Grand American modifieds, Saugus vs. Cajon.

SPRINT CARS--Lealand McSpadden, fresh from a double victory last week in the Pacific Coast Nationals at Phoenix, will shoot for another California Racing Assn. double tonight and Saturday night at Bakersfield Speedway in Oildale. Brent Kaeding, five-time Northern California champion, will join the CRA regulars in a bid to stop McSpadden in the two-night Budweiser Open Wheel Nationals.

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