12-year old Zack Mitchell Turning Laps, Turning Heads Dale Wilkerson
A seven-year racing career sounds short, until you realize the driver is only twelve years old.
Zack Mitchell turned his first laps on a go-kart track that his father, Todd Mitchell, plowed out behind the backyard.
It wasn't long before Zack was out running his father and the other family members and friends that showed up to run on the little dirt oval.
Todd purchased some more equipment and Zack began to race at the Buck Creek Speedway, in Chesnee, and the Sugar Tit Speedway, near Greer.
"He really caught on to kart racing quick, he won races and advanced through the different classes for kids his age," said Todd Mitchell.
That first year, Zack Mitchell won the points championship at Buck Creek, and with the help of "Cootter Man" Tony White he continued his winning ways the next year.
Zack Mitchell would enter the Tri-State series, which is ran at tracks across Georgia and the Carolinas. After picking up several big wins, a $5,000 purse and the Junior Big Dog Championship was next on the list at Carnesville, Georgia.
"Racing the karts was a lot of fun. I learned a lot and I wanted to take the next step and get in a car," said Zack Mitchell.
Zack had been asking his father for a racecar so; Todd dangled a carrot before they loaded the trailer, for the trip, to Carnesville.
"I told him if he won the big race at Carnesville I would get him a racecar," said Todd Mitchell. Zack wanted that car, but he had his work cut out for him.
There were over 80 karts entered in Zack's class. Zack was the fastest qualifier and he went on to win the race. Todd told his son that he needed to learn to drive a straight drive. Zack used some of his winnings, and help from his Grandfather, to purchase a little Suzuki Samurai.
His Grandfather took him out in the pasture and taught him to drive a stick. Todd found a car that could be used in the Young Guns class at area tracks. With help from Travis Morgan, along with family members and friends, that car was ready for action.
Zack adapted to the Young Guns car as fast as he did the racing karts. His first race was on a Friday night last year, at the Mile Back Speedway. Zack won that race. His father took him to the Cherokee Speedway the next night and Zack won that race as well. They followed that race with a trip up to Lawndale, NC where, once again, Zack won. His young career as a dirt track racer was off to an undefeated, 3 and 0 start.
Zack Mitchell won the 2007 Young Guns Championship at the Cherokee Speedway. He also won the Young Guns 4-Cylinder National event at the Cherokee Speedway last November. Several folks encouraged Todd to let Zack cut some laps in a Super Late Model car. Late last fall, David Smith helped Zack get in a Super Late Model, where once again, Zack adapted to the faster car.
Clary and Wesley Hood purchased a Crate Late Model for Zack to drive in the 2008 season. Zack, who again is only 12-years old, has competed at several tracks this year, against guys who have been racing dirt cars longer than he has been alive.
Zack has four wins this year, with three of those coming at the Cherokee Speedway. The Crate Class at Cherokee has been on of the toughest this year with Big John Pursley dominating races week after week.
"Racing with Big John has been a learning experience. He will race you hard but I have learned a lot just being on track with him. And off the track, Big John has given me a ton of advise that has really helped," said Zack Mitchell.
Other drivers have watched this youngster, at the track, and have given him a few pointers as well. Jeff Cooke, Chris Madden, Dennis Franklin, Mike Duvall, David Smith, along with John and Johnny Pursley have all offered this young driver the lessons they have learned during their years on track.
Zack has a couple more races this year in his Masterbuilt Clary Hood, Hot Spot, R.L. Jordan Oil, Wesley Hood INC, Crate Late Model. Next season he hopes to run in the FASTRACK Crate Series.
Sometimes Zack's classmates don't believe him when he tells the he is a racecar driver. If he wins the FASTRACK title in 2009, while those kids are showing off their Middle School rings, Zack will be showing off a Championship Ring.
Photo provided by Mike Butler Photography