Around campus, you probably know Jeff Wakemen as the Director of Student Development. His name would also ring a bell if you are involved with Stockton’s Car Club as he serves as one of the faculty advisors. But one thing you might not know about him is that his love for the automobile expands well outside of Stockton.
For the last decade or so, Wakemen has been an amateur Race Car driver and builder. He competed in a wide variety of SCCA and cross-country rallies before he began to participate in Road races in 2010. Wakemen always had a love for Road racing and the opportunity to dabble into that side of Motorsports came when his friend won an essay contest that included the Worst Car In America and an entry into the 24 Hours of Lemons event. The 24 Hours of Lemons is a series of endurance races that model the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans race but use much older and cheaper cars that you can buy off the street.
“We won an essay contest for the worst car in America,” Wakemen said. “We ended up building that car and taking it to New Orleans to run a Lemons race. Then we did something called the Grassroots Motorsports Challenge which is a Drag race, Concours, and Autocross that takes place all in one year and it has to be done in the same car. So that got me into Road racing and I’ve been Lemons racing for the last 12 years now.”
The Lemons racing has taken Wakemen to many different places across the country. From Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park in CT to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in CA, Wakemen has competed at about 20 different tracks. When asked what his favorite track to run was, Wakemen said it’s very tough to choose and there are quite a few places he really enjoyed running.
“It’s definitely tough to pick one because that’s almost like being asked to pick your favorite kid,” laughed Wakemen. “Laguna Seca was pretty fantastic and it’s definitely towards the top of the list. But they always say your first love is your strongest and Summit Point Motorsports Park which is in WV and about two hours outside of Washington D.C. was a pretty cool one. Monticello Motorsports in NY, Pittsburgh, and New Jersey Motorsports Park are all incredible facilities but if I had to pick one it would definitely be Laguna Seca or Summit Point.”
As a Racecar driver, you always dream of making it to the highest level of the sport. No matter if it’s NASCAR, IndyCar, or Formula One, tens of thousands of drivers both young and old have that same ambition. If he ever had the chance to compete at a high level for just one race, Wakemen would want to stick to the endurance route and run either the 24 Hours of Daytona or Le Mans.
“It’s weird because I would probably say the 24 Hours of Daytona, but I should be saying Le Mans,” Wakemen said. “Le Mans would be a totally different realm of racing as it’s a lot easier for people to just write a check and be the rich guy at Daytona. But if an opportunity ever fell into my lap to do something big, I would love to do one of those events.”
Aside from being involved in the driving side of Motorsports, Wakemen is also involved in the media side of it, hosting a podcast with some of his friends that he does the Lemons races with. The podcast called “Everyone Racers,” focuses on the kind of endurance racing that Wakemen has been involved with. The podcast has opened up many doors for Wakemen and his friends and they have been able to travel with the show to some big racing trade shows including SEMA in Las Vegas and Performance Racing Industry in Indiana. Wakemen never thought that something that started out as a hobby would become so big.
“My friends were like ‘we should do a podcast’ and then they brought me into it because they thought I was funny,” Wakemen said. “So we started the podcast covering this amateur endurance racing and it’s really grown a lot over the years. We’ve gotten press passes into some big trade shows and it’s crazy how we turned this little podcast into something big. It’s been a lot of fun going to these cool events.”
For the last six years, Wakemen has been one of the faculty advisors for Stockton’s Car Club. The club came together after a couple of people approached Wakemen with the idea and he was 100% on board with it. You can find any kind of car at the club from imports to trucks and you don’t even need to have a car to be involved. Over the years, the club has mainly done car shows in the parking lot where anybody can bring whatever they want and they would have several different sections including trucks, muscle cars, and motorcycles. As of right now, the club is kind of in hibernation but Wakemen has been suggesting ideas for what the club can do before the weather warms up in the spring.
“I’ve really been telling them that they could do more,” Wakemen said. “We could go to the New York or Philly Auto Show, or we could show Ford vs Ferrari. Just because this is a meet in the parking lot and has a show kind of club, doesn’t mean that has to dominate what we do. This happens for other clubs like the Ski Club doesn’t know what to do when it’s warm, the Car Club doesn’t know what to do when there is snow on the ground. So we’re kind of in hibernation during this part of the year.”