Zach Chappell Earns Best Career Finish at Tri-State Speedway To say that Zach Chappell has had a rough start to his rookie season with the World of Outlaws would be an understatement. In his first full-season in a 410-sprint car, he has endured...
Zach Chappell Earns Best Career Finish at Tri-State Speedway
To say that Zach Chappell has had a rough start to his rookie season with the World of Outlaws would be an understatement. In his first full-season in a 410-sprint car, he has endured his fair share of bad luck. He has gotten caught up in numerous accidents not of his making, and he and his crew have spent countless hours rebuilding cars.
On Saturday night in his first visit to Tri-State (Ind.) Speedway, he turned in a career best performance, that he hopes will change his luck as the World of Outlaws schedule begins to pick up in the next few weeks. With a very solid field of cars in attendance, he turned in the third-fastest lap in time trials, which was a career best. Chappell, who was used to drawing for starting positions in heat races, is learning each night what it takes to be fast for two laps in time trials.
"It feels good to have a break and start the night off with a good qualifying run," said Chappell, driver of the Kantor Oil Company XXX. "Where I have raced in the past, we never qualified. It's good to know that we are on the right track with a strong effort in time trials."
He followed up his strong qualifying effort by earning a spot in the dash, which lined him up 10th in the A-Feature. When the checkered flag flew on the 40-lap contest, he earned his first Top-Five with the World of Outlaws, racing against drivers that have years of experience and that had raced at Tri-State Speedway numerous times in the past.
While he was ecstatic about finishing fifth, the racer inside of him kept wondering what might have been if the caution flag had not flown a number of times in the second half of the 40-lap event. Chappell had one of the quickest cars in the A-Feature, turning in the third fastest lap of the race, with the winner Steve Kinser and runner-up Jac Haudenschild the only cars faster than him on the speed chart when the checkered flag flew.
The native of Talala, Oklahoma gained two spots on the opening lap of the event. He got around polesitter Danny Lasoski on the 15th lap as he continued his march into the Top-Five. In the late going, he battled Jason Meyers and passed the eventual third-place finisher at one point, though Meyers got back around for the spot a couple laps later. Chappell also was a benefactor of late contact between Tim Kaeding and Paul McMahan while the pair was running in the Top-Five.
"I think if we would have gotten in lapped traffic, I could have done even better," he said. "My car was really good right in the middle and on top. I had nothing for them on the bottom. The crew really worked hard on this car tonight. I'm glad we brought it home in once piece and a top-five at that."
While he was glad to get his first Top-Five with the World of Outlaws under his belt, Chappell was even more excited to be able to call his car owners Jim and Linda Kantor and share the news with them.
"We are very pleased with how things went at Tri-State," he beamed. "We have been struggling and we have finally got the groove of this car. This new XXX Wesmar-powered car is doing real well. We tried some new stuff at Tri-State and some of it worked. We also had some people give us a hand, and let us know what we are doing, just trying to help us out. It worked out pretty well on Saturday night. We can't complain that's for sure."
Being paired with renowned crew chief Ray Brooks has helped ease the learning curve for Chappell as he battles the best sprint car drivers in the world night in and night out. The optimistic driver got his feet wet at the end of last season, competing in the final four events of the season in Arizona and Las Vegas, in preparation for a run at the Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Award this season.
"We hope this turns our luck around," commented Chappell. "We've had horrible luck, and hopefully this is the big break that we need. We want to be as competitive as we can and not be in anybody's way. John and Linda Kantor have given us a golden opportunity to come out here, and we'll continue to work hard and see what we can do."
The 2001 American Sprint Car Series Champion has visited a number of tracks for the first time this season, and he always try to find similarities between tracks that are new to him, with tracks that he has plenty of laps on. That was the case at Tri-State Speedway on Saturday night, as he felt right at home the instant he turned his first lap on the high-banked ¼-mile.
"I grew up in Oklahoma and we have some tight cornered little tracks like Tri-State, and I grew up on one," he explained. "I've always said I like going to different places and I do. Every now and then you see one that is close to a track back home and close to your driving style. I've had a lot of success back home and hopefully Ray (Brooks) and I can stay on the same page and get this done when we visit different tracks."
This weekend Chappell will take to the famed Knoxville Raceway for the first time in a 410-sprint car, looking to keep the momentum he gained at Tri-State Speedway rolling.