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Engineering student's passion is speed
by Dan McGee
Dec 20, 2009 | 1048 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune/Dan McGee - Jake Holland gives a "V" for victory sign as he takes a lap of honor after winning the July 4 race at Rattlesnake Raceway in Fallon. The UNR mechanical engineering student is combining his love for speed with technical knowledge.
Tribune/Dan McGee - Jake Holland gives a "V" for victory sign as he takes a lap of honor after winning the July 4 race at Rattlesnake Raceway in Fallon. The UNR mechanical engineering student is combining his love for speed with technical knowledge.
RENO - A passion for racing and speed has led one driver not only to chase his dream but technical training as well. For Jake Holland, from Calpine, Calif., racing and being a student at UNR go hand in hand.

He like many others found his love of racing at an early age, although he had to give up one sport for another.

"When I was 10 years old was when I got into it," he said. "I promised one of my friends I was going to play football in high school with him and that was one of the biggest choices. My dad said that if you race, you have to be 100% on it and can't play other sports."

While Tom Holland has been a major supporter of his son's racing, he never drove himself, but for his son Jake, being competitive was something that came naturally.

"I raced anything as a kid. You get on a bicycle with me and we're going to race somewhere," he said. "I always watched it on TV, was always interested in it and my brother and I had those three-wheelers that we raced those all the time."

Wanting his sons to learn about mechanics and cars, the elder Holland took the boys, Jake and his then 4-year-old brother Justin, to see a race at Desert Park Raceway.

After a discussion, where the boys decided they wanted to try racing, their father bought two karts. Then in 2000 11-year-old Jake began to race in the Junior Sportsman class with the Northern Nevada Kart Club.

Holland admitted he really doesn't remember much about his first taste of competition.

"It's really weird as when I'm really on it, and not making any mistakes, I completely blank out. I did that on my very first race as I completely disappeared and didn't see anything," he said. "But on the last lap I was taken out while leading so don't think I even finished that race but it was everything I thought it would be."

Despite his finish, everyone was happy with his performance and that set him on a path he followed for several seasons.

"We did very good, then I got in really tight with the Botelho's, Mike and little Mike, and was slightly sponsored by MMS. We were really tight with them for four years and they helped us a lot."

In 2003 Holland won the Junior Sportsman championship and ended up ninth or 10th in the IKF series. Then he spent the next year racing an 80cc shifter kart.

His transition to the faster kart went smoothly.

"I've never had a problem with speed, it's never been over my head," he said. "I think I could go 180 miles an hour and it won't bother me as it's all relative when you're around everybody else."

Asked about college, Holland said that racing and a degree in engineering has been a long time goal of his.

"When I was 11, right after my first race it was like, 'this is awesome, I'm set on this and I want to race for the rest of my life,'" he said. "One of my history teachers made us write down what we wanted to be when we grew up and what you want to go to college for. I originally wrote that I want to be a racecar driver and go to school for mechanical engineering.

"And it's stuck ever since I was in the sixth grade. I've been pretty focused ever since I was little. I'm so happy with engineering, it's so much fun, I'm interested in the subject and it helps in racing."

While in karting, Holland found he needed to make a choice as to his future.

"I knew if I continued in karting I would go into more of an Indy Car type of racing but I wanted to go into more of a stock car direction like NASCAR and stuff."

The result was to move into full-bodied cars but there was one person that needed to be on board with this decision, his mother Penny Holland. She signs the checks that allow her son to race, so when he was 14 they took her to a pro stock race.

"We finally dragged her to the track and after seeing it mom wasn't quite sure she wanted to put her son in a pro stock," he said. "My dad's looking at me and asking, 'are you sure you can do it,' and I had the same answer as when I was 11, I said it's not problem as I can handle this."

Helping them build the pro stock car was Jim Turner, from Loyalton, who helped them build that first car. When he made the switch from karts, Holland's younger brother became his mechanic and pitted for him.

Holland found racing a pro stock agreed with him and at the Reno-Fernley Raceway he never had to wear a rookie's yellow strip on the car's back bumper. Starting his first race mid-pack was quite a performance for a 15-year-old.

"I started about 13th or 14th and got up to fifth and passed everybody on the outside because nobody was out there. It was my first race and had no idea of what I was doing," he said. "We did really, really good and I won a bunch of heat races in my first year."

Again the transition was smooth but like any racer he had to deal with what is known as, "The Edge."

"You still have the same feel for the edge but on pavement it's more defined and if you go beyond it, you're gone," he said. "The biggest thing on dirt is that you can save it so if the car gets sideways you can just feed more throttle to it and keep it underneath you. On pavement there's no saving it once the car gets to a certain point."

The modified Holland currently drives is a four-bar type and as such the left rear wheel is critical when the car rolls in a corner. This is where a driver's seat-of-the-pants sense comes into play.

"I'm very, very sensitive to my handling and when you're on the edge on dirt you can feel it vibrating. That's where your tires are slipping but you're still making speed," he said. "You can always feel that fine, fine vibration and it's kind of a harmonic thing through your body, then you know you're right on the edge and don't want to go any faster."

After two seasons Holland moved to pavement where he drove a Whelen Late Model for Turner at the track in Roseville, Calif. This meant getting a NASCAR License and making what was a rough transition to pavement, which included almost immediately crashing the car.

"It just stepped out and I drove it like a dirt car," he said. "The difference between pavement and dirt is that if it steps out and you chase it, the car goes up the track. I didn't know that so I chased that car right up the track, into the wall and knocked the rear end out of it."

After some struggling things got better for him.

"It wasn't the transfer from dirt to pavement but the lack of knowledge of how to drive a pavement car," he said. "We figured out that I was braking and getting on the throttle at the wrong spots. I was trying to turn while on the throttle and it had the weight all out of whack."

Dirt and pavement racing are two very different disciplines.

"On dirt you want that car set and going as soon as possible. On pavement it's a lot more waiting," he said. "Bring it down in the corner then you wait until the center of the corner when you can pivot the car and bring it off. And you don't want to be on the throttle before then or your car is just going to push up to the top."

This knowledge helped when he returned to dirt the following year.

"I've actually taken pavement and applied it to dirt a lot more than I took dirt and applied it to pavement especially on the dry-slick here," he said. "Pavement is such a fine line, you're either on the edge or past it and dry-slick out here it's the same thing."

Due to the low humidity in Northern Nevada, most dirt tracks dry out very quickly and being able to handle this change gives a driver a huge advantage.

"Last year I beat Dustin Jenks (In an IMCA Modified feature.), I was the first one to beat him all year and all I did was drive it like the pavement car. I brought it down nice and smooth into the corner, pivoted it, brought it off and it worked perfect," he said.

While Nevada dirt is dry-slick the clay at American Valley, in Quincy, Calif., isn't and that track, with its paper-clip shape, requires a different technique for those that race on it.

"It has weird dirt, it's not dry-slick but even when it's tacky it's not but is in between. So you really have to watch it as the track holds water in weird places," he said. "You have to drive it pretty conservatively and you can't throw it in the corners."

Holland returned to dirt driving a pro stock that he built as a senior project at Calpine High School. The next year he switched to an IMCA Modified.

This past season, his first full year in the modified, he had three victories, the opener at the Reno-Fernley Raceway, 4th of July race at Fallon and the Fair Race at Quincy. In his other 11 races he had five seconds, two thirds, a fourth and fifth as well as two DNFs.

"If I finished it was in the top five and if I didn't it was on the wrecker," he said.

Holland, who turns 20 next year, is planning big changes. Besides school he's actively seeking sponsorship for an ambitious racing schedule.

He also got engaged to a grad student whose father is supposed to help in this effort.

Explaining this next step, Holland said, "Carl Edwards had a quote I've always stood by, "'re only as good as your competition....' So if I step it up and go to that good competition, I'm just going to learn more."

In 2010 he plans to race in the Wild West Modified Tour North Series; seven races in New Mexico, Montana, Wyoming, Utah and Nevada. Those will probably be the only ones he can afford, as it requires about 10,000 miles of towing.

"There are a lot of very, very good drivers in that series like Justin Yeager, who was top 5 in points this year, has won the championship and I'd would like to get in there and race him," he said. "What we're planning on is to have a really big learning year, going to new tracks we don't know anything about or any of the people there."

Looking further ahead Holland wants to make racing his full time occupation, either as a driver or owner.

"I'd really like to get into dirt late models, there's a lot of money in it and you can actually race it for a living," he said. "What my plan is, maybe five years from now, if I'm not professionally racing I'd like to start my own team, with my own money then have my dad and brother help me. Maybe hire two or three more people and go racing full time as my job."

He also realizes this dream might mean a move to the Midwest.

"My fiancée Linsey is totally for that; she's loves that I race," he said. "She's actually understands it all as she was a basketball player in college for West Florida State so she's a really focused athlete too. And she completely understands my focus on racing and is always going to support me.

"She's getting her PhD in chemistry so we're going to graduate at the same time as she's a little bit older than me."

Although he has no sponsors, Holland does have a small group of supporters he thanked.

"Finally just want to thank my parents for everything they've ever done for me. The only way I've ever done it is through their money and support," he said. "My brother was my spotter when we raced late models on pavement and he's always been there to help."

For this engineering student, life in the fast lane is his passion and his education is going help him achieve his goal; racing for a living.
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