From Gary Thomas, photo courtesy of H2H photo
Alger, Washington – June 21, 2010…Heading into the inaugural running of Western Speedweek with high hopes Vancouver, Washington’s Zach Zimmerly proceeded to put together some of the finest moments in his young sprint car career by scoring his first ever 410 Golden State Challenge Series victory to open the week and eventually capped it all off with a strong runner up finish at the 39th Jim Raper Memorial Dirt Cup this past Saturday.
The impressive week of action was also good enough to make Zimmerly the very first “Western Speedweek-Road to Dirt Cup” champion, in what is his sophomore season of sprint car racing behind the wheel of the McMillen Motorsports, Christian Stover Foundation, Level One Concrete No. 94 mount.
The long and grueling week began on Friday night June 11 with the 27th annual Tribute to Gary Patterson at the Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico, California. After qualifying fourth quick to begin the night in the stout 33-car field, Zimmerly lined up sixth in the 30-lap main event and ran around that spot the first few laps, before making an entertaining charge through the pack by moving into fifth on lap seven and then fourth on lap 12.
A couple circuits later he was able to get by Mason Moore for third and then set his sights on front runners Sean Becker and Brent Kaeding. With just under 10-laps remaining in the feature Zimmerly then charged by Becker for second and on lap 22 the 16-year-old would carve his way by Kaeding to take command as the crowd came to their feet. After that it was all about “Super Z” up front as he drove away from the field and crossed under the checkered to become the youngest winner in Golden State Challenge Series history at 16-years and one-month old.
“This is a pretty awesome feeling and to be able to pass a guy like Brent Kaeding to win my first GSC race is really cool,” he said after the race. “I need to thank my whole family and team, Duke & Scott McMillen, all our sponsors, Jonathan Allard and everyone that supports us. I also want to dedicate this win to the memory of Christian Stover.”
Western Speedweek then moved to the Southern Oregon Speedway in Medford, Oregon on Saturday June 12 and Cottage Grove Speedway on Monday June 14, where Zimmerly scored finishes of 10th and ninth respectively at the two tracks.
A rainout was then seen on Tuesday June 15 in Lebanon, Oregon as it then set the stage for the prestigious 39th running of the three-night Jim Raper Memorial Dirt Cup, which kicked off on Thursday June 17 at the Skagit Speedway in Alger, Washington. Zimmerly opened the big event on Thursday by running second in his heat race and then started from the third row in the 30-lap prelim main event. At the waving of the green flag he moved forward quickly and was able to tally a runner up finish to Shane Stewart at the conclusion of the feature.
Coming back for the second prelim night on Friday Zimmerly drew a late number for qualifying, going out 41st of 44 cars, but even despite a drying track was able to cut the third fastest lap of the session aboard the Miller&Zimmerly Holdings, Fire Down Graphics, Douglas Wheel Technologies No. 94 A.R.T. A third place finish in his heat race then transferred him into the main event where he lined up from the 14th starting position in the 15-car inverted field. A rough and tumble start to the feature was seen, but once the racing got into a flow Zimmerly followed Jonathan Allard through the pack as the pair blew to the front.
Picking off cars one after another just around the halfway point Allard and Zimmerly soon found themselves sitting one-two in the order and with the laps winding down the youngster tried to make something happen with his mentor, but had to settle for a runner up finish for the second night in a row as “JA” crossed the checkered flag in first. Following the race points were tabulated from the first two nights and going into Saturday’s finale Zimmerly sat atop the Dirt Cup standings by eight-digits over Shane Stewart and it was good enough to place him on the pole of the A-scramble. It also gave Zimmerly the honor of being the youngest driver to ever lead the Dirt Cup standings going into the final night.
With a packed house on hand at Skagit Speedway for the finale of the 39th Dirt Cup Zimmerly began the night by claiming third in the scramble, after losing a spot to Allard on the opening lap, which put him in the second row for the $25,000-to-win/40-lap main event. When the green lights flashed on the Vancouver, Washington driver settled into third and looked to make his move once traffic came into play as Allard set a very fast pace out front. With the leaders fighting through the thick pack of lappers Zimmerly made the move to slice by Stewart just prior to a caution period on lap 15. Once in second he came hard after Allard and took a peak for the lead at one point when lapped traffic appeared again.
Trying hard to find a way by for the top-spot things changed on lap 23 when a slower car blocked Zimmerly up high and allowed Stewart the inside line to steal the second position back. Just after that happened, Allard then tangled with a lapped car and spun to a stop in turn one to bring on the caution lights once again. Finding himself in second for the restart Zimmerly ran comfortably in position on the lightning fast Skagit clay, but when the slower cars came into play again it gave him another chance to close in and attempt to make something happen with the defending ASCS National champion. As the teenage powerhouse tried to move in on Stewart’s rear bumper another caution would then appear and slow the charge.
With Zimmerly being down a cylinder since around halfway Stewart had an apparent horsepower advantage, as he was able to charge away on the restarts and without traffic the rest of the way it forced the 16-year-old to settle for a runner up finish for the third consecutive night. “We had a really good car and were real quick, but being on seven cylinders hurt us with how fast the track was and I was certainly hoping more traffic,” said Zimmerly. “Shane was definitely fast in the clean air though and did a great job so I have to congratulate him. It was unfortunate what happened to Jonathan because he was really good too and would have been tough to beat.”
The extremely consistent weekend at the Dirt Cup also wrapped up the 2010 Western Speedweek championship for Zimmerly and the No. 94 team. “The whole week was a lot of fun and to be the Western Speedweek champ is pretty awesome,” he commented. “We definitely would have liked to win the Dirt Cup since we were in position to do so, but getting three second place finishes in a row isn’t bad at all so we can’t be too disappointed with how things went, because it was a great week for the whole team overall.”
Main event winner Stewart was also very humble afterwards giving Zimmerly a big hug, shaking the hands of team members and also said following the race, “I can’t thank Zach enough for racing us clean. He’s the future of our sport and is a great competitor and a great young man with a good family and a strong team behind him. Hopefully he stays around in sprint cars for a while and doesn’t make that jump to NASCAR or something like that.”
Zimmerly is also looking for additional sponsors to help support his racing endeavors and for anyone that would like to get on board please contact Zach at firstname.lastname@example.org
For more news and info on 16-year-old Zach Zimmerly please visit http://www.zachzimmerly.com and don’t forget to follow us on twitter at http://twitter.com/ZZR94