Ventura’s Laguna Pays Off

Fast company: Cory Ventura (28) slots in between two-time MotoAmerica Supersport Champion JD Beach (195) and former KTM RC Cup Champion Benjamin Smith.
Photo by Brian J. Nelson

“How bad do you want it?” It’s a phrase we hear all the time.

Apparently, Cory Ventura wants it badly. In order to make his MotoAmerica debut in the Supersport class season finale at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca a few weeks ago, the 18-year-old had to put his nose to the grindstone and get it done himself. So that’s what he did.

Ventura worked as many hours as he could stocking produce at Costco, and the money he saved went directly into his racing program.

“My goal this year was just to kind of take a step back and have fun, but as we started to have success in AFM and really having a lot of fun, Jesse (of Race BBJK) was like, ‘I think we should do this (the Laguna Seca round). I was like, ‘Okay. Let’s try and make this work.’ So, then I started saving up. As we got closer and as I started getting faster, I was like, ‘We’re going to put a full run into this and make it happen.’ “

And happen it did. With three AFM races under his belt and armed with a Kawasaki ZX6R, Ventura showed up with his dedicated family and his dedicated extended racing family, which includes Cameron Beaubier’s father, Jeff, and Jesse Koeller, and earned his first career MotoAmerica Supersport podium with a third-place finish on Saturday. He followed it up on Sunday with a fighting fifth.

So, did the result come as a surprise to Ventura, who was the championship runner-up in both the 2017 MotoAmerica KTM RC Cup and 2018 Liqui Moly Junior Cup Series?

“It did,” Ventura admitted. “I knew coming into the weekend that I’d be running up there and I knew my race pace would be strong. Some people are better at getting good, fast laps in than me. But race distance and race times are different than qualifying. Obviously, I had a little bit of luck with JD (Beach) and Ben (Smith) crashing in front of me and with Richie (Escalante) and what was going on with his transmission or whatever. But I feel like I should have been there. All I was really doing was learning that whole time. I think I honestly struggled in that race more than race two with tires and figuring out that race distance because I haven’t raced that distance in a while. Just stacking up where I was supposed to be.”

The results were a bit of a surprise, but maybe they shouldn’t have been. After all, Ventura had put together a solid effort in a COVID-19 shortened season in the AFM series. And he wasn’t that far removed from his debut 2019 season of MotoAmerica Supersport racing where he finished 12th in the championship with a best finish of fifth.

“I won all the 600 stuff,” Ventura said of his AFM season. “I didn’t really have too much competition. (Josh) Hayes showed up on the Yamaha R6 at the first round, as I was still trying to figure out the ZXs (Kawasaki) a little bit. But I didn’t finish too far off him. That first time I actually learned a lot trying to ride with him. It was a huge learning curve for me. Hayes has been teaching me the last couple years, so it was kind of a good thing. But, besides that, all I could really do was race 1000s. I raced against Andy DiBrino in Formula Pacific, and he ended up getting me at the line. That’s all I’ve been doing this year is just kind of working on myself, working with Jesse, seeing what we can do better. We really went back to what I used to do in 2018 with Graves and Yamaha. We just would work, work, work and see what we could do on the bike because we had no one else to really base myself off of.”

Even though he was third in race one after a battle with old KTM rival Brandon Paasch, Ventura’s better race pace was in race two where he finished fifth, setting his fastest lap of the weekend in the process.

A podium for Ventura.

“I was pushing pretty hard,” Ventura said of race one. “I wanted to get (Brandon) Paasch. We’ve kind of had a thing for him since 2016, just with him being the KTM Cup champ and everything. We’ve never really stacked up since then. He’s been racing all year, so I wanted to beat him really bad, but again the risk versus reward did come in to play a little bit. When he passed me, he actually block-passed me really good and put a good gap on me. I was like, ‘Dang it.’ I really wanted to contest with him for it. We came up on a couple lappers, and if I would have cleaned up two corners, I would have probably been there with him. But, like I said, I was just out there burning the whole time and trying to figure out riding my bike at the end of 18 laps. Just kind of funny. I know Josh (Hayes) got really mad at me for how many corners I blew and how I was just riding out there like I didn’t know what I was doing, but I made it around.”

Although Ventura is hell-bent on racing a full MotoAmerica schedule, he’s also working on his back-up plan of becoming a police officer – a motorcycle police officer, to be precise. First things first, however, because Ventura has be 21 in order to apply. But he’s not sitting around when it comes to that either.

“Right now, I want to work on aligning stuff with some people to help me get on a team,” Ventura said. “I don’t want to keep doing what I’m doing this year, even though I could make that work. It’s just really tough. There’s no way I can put a full season together with my own program, because I didn’t have any support. It was all coming out of my pocket. My dad helped a little bit, but Jesse had us put the money where we wanted to put it. Also, I just want to do what all the other riders do, do what Brandon (Paasch) did, do what Sean (Dylan Kelly) did. Just be able to show up, have your bike on the grid, and have a team ready to go 100 percent.

“As for being a police officer, it’s tough for me because I’m not quite 21 yet so I can’t move to fast with that. I’m just taking some community college classes at the moment, just getting ready to get my Associate’s (degree) to put myself one step ahead of anyone else when it comes time to apply. I would like to be a police officer. It’s come up quite a bit. I love riding motorcycles and riding a motorcycle for my job wouldn’t be too bad.”

All we can say is good luck to the poor felon who tries to make a break from Officer Ventura.