Season in Review: Steve Jenks

October 11, 2018

The 2018 F2000 Championship title went to Steve Jenks and Tumenas Motorsports, amassing four wins along the way and leading races in five of seven weekends over the 14-race 2018 season.

Looking back at the 2018 season, what was your highlight/favorite moment and why?

Saturday at Atlanta was my favorite moment. That day was a milestone birthday for me and we won our first F2000 race in 5 years of trying. Plus from green flag to checkered flag it was a flat out race with defending series Brandon Dixon champion on my rear wing for the whole race.  

What was the overall key to taking the title?

Consistency was the key. 5 of the 7 weekends we led a race so we always had the pace. I think we had 5 seconds to go the 4 wins. And, other than a mistake I made at VIR, we had a perfect finishing record. Lenny Tumenas worked hard over the winter and during the season so the car was mechanically super reliable.

What was the biggest challenge you faced? How did you overcome it?

Racing is a confidence game. I had to get comfortable that I could drive within my skillset and be fast. It is so easy to overdrive these cars. Plus, historically I had a habit of compounding small mistakes and getting passed in race.  That first race at Atlanta was important as I proved to myself that I could run a race error free under significant pressure from a previous champion.

Favorite track/event and why?

I lived in Ohio for many years so I consider Mid Ohio to be my ‘home’ track. I had been really good at Mid Ohio in the Formula Mazda back in the SCCA days but not good at all in F2000 which was really frustrating. This year we had two poles, a win and second place. And, in both races, John LaRue who is the Mid Ohio F2000 master, was pushing me hard. Felt really good to finally have a strong weekend at Mid Ohio.

What did you learn / how did you grow as a driver?

I worked hard on driving in the offseason and throughout this season. Jamal Lewis who I work with in Colorado put together a conditioning program designed for racing. While Jamal almost killed me, I could feel the results of better physical conditioning in the car. I also ran the shifter kart regularly through the winter to keep my head and body in racing mode. Peter Portante (Pooh Bear) helped me work on breaking some bad habits with throttle application and brake techniques starting in winter testing. I’ve raced a while but Peter really helped me refine my driving skills and approach some corners differently than I had in previous years.

Take me through a race weekend from your point of view (pick one of the weekends you raced).

We have a very systematic approach. Peter Portante sends me a track guide and if it is a track on iRacing I do some simulator work based on his notes. I’m always traveling from Denver and I try to get in a day early to help with time change and get my head into racing. Lenny Tumenas has the car ready so other than gas and tire pressures we are ready to roll. The first practice I usually run the full session without stopping just to get a feel for driving. Between every session Barry Wilcock does a full nut and bolt plus some basic maintenance items.

After each session, Peter and I do a detailed video/data debrief and he always finds a handful of focus areas. The second practice we use to fine tune setup and I work on Peter’s suggestions. Qualifying is super competitive and usually hero to zero is a few tenths. We break qualifying into two sections doing some fine tuning of set up in the middle. I just try and stay mentally relaxed and focus on where Peter has identified the time sits. For the race, I just try for an aggressive start and then settling into a rhythm. My style in the race is about minimizing mistakes because it is hard to pass a consistent driver. Victory usually favors the team that makes the fewest mistakes.

Any traditions/superstitions during a race weekend?

Given we race in honor of the Basset Hound who is underappreciated for speed and quickness, I subject the team to YouTube Basset Hound videos in the days leading up to the race.

What advice would you give new drivers looking at the series next year?

You will not find a better value in open wheel racing. The series is super competitive with a blend of young fast people and experienced veterans. Every race is like the SCCA runoffs but with a deeper field. To do well takes the full package of team and driver. With a few exceptions, it usually takes some time to get to the pointy end. In my case it took 4 years and I was coming off a runoffs podium in another class.

How would you describe your driving style?

I try to be smooth and consistent.  I tend to make most of my speed with corner exits so it is important to have the platform under control. And, I like racing people who go hard but fair. Going side by side into a corner with a competitor you trust and seeing who can come out first is the fun part of this sport.

Do you remember your first F2000 Series weekend?

My first race in the series was at Lime Rock in 2013. In the only dry practice, we were 5th out of over 25 cars and we were feeling good. Then therain came and I must have spun out 5 times in the driving rain and 40 degree temperatures and ended the weekend with putting the car in the wall. Not a glamorous entry to the series. That 5th in practice was the best we did for years as I struggled for pace when I started with the series.

What attracted you to the Series in the first place? What were your takeaways from that first weekend?

Single make run groups were what attracted me to the series. Plus, track time as I go to the race track to drive the race car. While it took a while to get results, it was clear from the beginning that the F2000 series was what I was looking for in my racing. I liked the single car run groups, track time, and professional approach.

Lenny Tumenas gave me a fast and completely reliable car. Lenny is really good at taking my feedback and translating that to setup changes throughout the weekend. Barry Wilcock worked hard at the track with good prep between each session. Peter Portante (Pooh Bear) knows driver coaching and is a skilled communicator. Jamal Lewis got me in shape to race people who are 30 years younger than me. Dexter the Basset Hound was with me on the nose of the car all year. Cleanlife Products and Apex Kart Sports are important sponsors.

Plans for 2019?

I was tired at the end of the year as I do shifter kart racing plus F2000 and a busy corporate day job. But the weekend after New Jersey, I was in the garage working on the shifter kart and I have been in the gym regularly since the season ended so I guess I still have the bug. I’d really like to get a fast driver in the second car for winter testing and the full season. Having a team mate to push on driving and set up would make me better. The series was super competitive next year and I’m expecting the same next year.

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