Dave Juntunen aboard his Richard Lee Memorial Racing Team Suzuki. Photo by Jessica Johnk

The message on the dash of my rental car said “0 miles to empty,” but I’ve played this game many times before. There’s always a gallon or so left in the tank after it goes on “E,” and I was in one of those subcompact “clown cars” that had averaged 38.6 miles per gallon on my trip to Ohio to Road America.

Rounding the on-ramp to the highway, I felt a stumble in the engine. “Oh, that’s just because centrifugal force is causing the remaining gas to slosh away from fuel pickup,” I thought. Nope. The car turned sickly silent, so I coasted onto the shoulder and turned on the hazard flashers.

Leaving the racetrack a few minutes earlier, I had noticed that another car was right behind me. Thankfully, they were still behind me when I stopped on the side of the road.

Just like Batman, the road racing family came through again. The car that stopped behind me was a Fiat 500 covered on the outside with logos and filled on the inside with a Twins Cup rider and his racing team. They immediately volunteered to go and get me a container of go-juice, and off they went to the gas station that was, thankfully, in sight of where I broke down. About 15 minutes later, a gallon of gas was in my rental, and I was on my way.

Dave Juntunen was the front-seat passenger in the car that rescued me, and some of his team members were with him, including Steve Horsfield who was the driver. Juntunen is competing in the MotoAmerica series for the first time, and he is racing a Suzuki SV650 in the Twins Cup class, with Horsfield serving as his crew chief.

Crew chief Steve Horsfield with Juntenen’s Suzuki Twins Cup bike.

His team, which is called the Richard Lee Memorial Racing Team, was created in memory of Richard Lundeen, who was an AMA professional road racer and a top-10 finisher in the Pikes Peak Hill Climb.Lundeen was also a motocrosser, bicycle racer, and served in the Marine Corps as a mechanic working on F/A-18 fighter jets. He volunteered with the Front Rangers Cycling Club and helped at-risk children by repairing bicycles for them to ride in racing events, which led to him being chosen to carry the Olympic torch in the 1996 Olympic Torch Relay from Cheyenne, Wyoming to Denver, Colorado.

Lundeen and Juntunen were orphans who lived together in the same foster home, then lived in different homes and, in 1980, were reunited when a foster family brought them back together. They remained close until Lundeen passed way on January 11, 2016, just one month prior to his 50th birthday.

As a result of his brother’s passing, Juntunen received $25,000 from a life insurance policy, and he spent the following months trying to figure out what he should do with the money to honor Lundeen.

Juntunen’s brother Richard Lundeen received the Motorcycle Roadracing Association (MRA) Sportsman of the Year Award in 2002.

He finally decided to use the money to buy his first motorcycle and attend some track days. By August 2016, he entered the Central Roadracing Association’s (CRA) New Rider School and got his racing license.

In 2017, Juntunen finished his first season in road racing and was bumped up from Novice to Expert for the 2018 season. This past July, on his way to a CRA race weekend at Brainerd International Raceway, his motor home caught fire, which spread to the trailer and resulted in the total loss of his entire race setup. Despite the setback, Dave finished the CRA season as a top-10 Expert.

Having advanced as a road racer so quickly, Juntunen found himself at a crossroads about whether to stop racing altogether or take things to another level in honor of his brother.

Lundeen’s legacy as an AMA professional road racer fueled Juntunen’s decision to compete in MotoAmerica this season. He bought a Suzuki SV650 from Kyle Knutson of 2K Motorsports in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and made the trip to Road America, along with his Richard Lee Memorial Racing Team where Juntunen is competing in MotoAmerica’s Twins Cup class. On Saturday at Road America, Juntunen finished 19th in Qualifying Practice 1, and he will try to move even closer to the front in Sunday’s Qualifying Practice 2 before he takes to the grid for the start of the Twins Cup race at 4:00 PM Central Time.

“We’re not a ‘rich’ racing team, even though we’re racing forRich,” Juntunen said. “With the losses we suffered in the fire last July, we had to come up with some creative ways to help offset the cost of this venture. We sell advertising space on our race rig and car, and we will be crisscrossing the country all year long to spread the word about our advertisers, the Richard Lee Memorial Racing Team, and my brother Richard Lundeen.”

So, if you see a group of happy people riding around in a vehicle that looks more like a moving billboard than a run-of-the-mill Fiat 500, it may be Juntunen and his race team.

If you’re lucky enough to meet them like I was, you’ll be a better person for it. And if you need gas like I did, they’ll either have it for you, and they’ll go and get it.