Zack Mitchell has an unusual check list for his weekend activities
November 2009 Dale Wilkerson
Being an eighth grade student at Woodruff Middle School, he has to make sure his school assignments are complete. So each Friday afternoon, he looks over his notes from school to make sure he finishes all of his homework before Monday morning.
His chores at home include washing the cars, and sometimes this can be an all day job. He has his mother's car, his father's truck, the work truck, and even though Zack is only 13, he has his two cars to wash.
That's right, he is 13 years old, and he has two cars. These are not just your regular run of the mill pair of cars, these two are hotrods. One has around 450-horsepower while the second one has 700+horsepower. No, these are not street cars, but dirt race cars. Zack has driven both of his hotrods to the Winner's Circle, making some history along the way.
On October 10, 2009, Zack became the youngest driver to win a Super Late Model Feature at the Cherokee Speedway. This season, he has recorded ten wins in his Crate Late Model and he has really been turning heads since crawling into a Super Late Model.
"My family has been so supportive of my racing. They provided me with the best racing karts, and then my grandfather helped me get into a four cylinder car. That was a lot
Mitchell adapted quickly to the faster Crate cars, winning events and running inside the top five week in and week out. His driving caught the attention of Kelly Hamrick of Gaffney.
"Mr. Hamrick offered me a chance to drive one of his supers this past summer. There is a big horsepower difference but the car feels similar to a crate car. That first time at speed was a thrill ride!! Having that much horsepower under your foot is a rush and you have to concentrate to get the most out of the car," Mitchell added.
Zack's parents, Todd and Jennifer Mitchell, have been with him for every lap. Whether he was racing karts, street stocks, or the faster super and crate late models, his parents have been there. Todd works on the cars and Jennifer is his number one fan.
"I don't know how much more my heart can take. Zack has continued to improve with each step he has taken in racing. We were cautious about allowing him to make the move from karts to cars, but he made the transition very smoothly. Then he didn't miss a beat moving from the four cylinder cars to the crates. Watching him race against guys like Chris Madden, Dennis Franklin, Furman Parton and the other great super drivers in the area has been fun to watch as a race fan, and nerve racking as a parent, but Zack is doing a great job," said Todd Mitchell.
The week after winning the weekly Super Late Model Feature at Gaffney, Mitchell qualified for his first Southern All Stars East race, which was the Stick Elliott Memorial race held on 10/24/09. This series has the best dirt racers in the south competing in it, and Mitchell was very impressive in his debut.
Zack qualified fourth and ran inside the top seven the entire race. When the checkered flag waved, Mitchell finished fourth, but being a racer, he wanted more.
"We race to win, that is the goal each time on track. But in the big picture this is a great night for us. The car felt good and racing with Furman Parton, Petey Ivey, and Johnny Pursley was a lot of fun," said Mitchell shortly after the Stick Elliott Memorial race.
Mitchell also competed in the Blue Gray 100, which was held on 11/15/09 at Gaffney. There were 31 cars on hand with drivers from the mid-west, northeast, and from the southern states. Mitchell won the B-main, earning a starting spot in the 100-lap feature. The race was furious in the qualifying races and Mitchell's car suffered some front end damaged. His crew thrashed on the car and he had a respectable showing in his first 100 lap feature.
Also, by winning the B-main, Mitchell became the youngest driver to qualify for the Blue Gray 100 in this event's 20-year history.
Zack has credited guys like Chris Madden, David Smith, Jeff Cooke, Dennis Franklin, John and Johnny Pursley for helping him make the transition to the faster cars.
"These guys have given me some great advice off the track, and being on track with them also helps," added Mitchell.
Mitchell appeared on Droppin' the Hammer, on ESPN-1400-AM, a few weeks ago where his accomplishments caught the attention of legendary NASCAR team owner Bud Moore.
"Zack is only 13 years old and he has already developed great car control. For a driver that young to go out and win in a super late model at one of the toughest dirt tracks in the country, this young man has a bright future ahead of him," said Moore.
Along with the advice from these drivers, Mitchell has some great support behind him. Clary and Wesley Hood with Wesley Hood Inc, Kelly Hamrick with Hamrick's of Gaffney, Hot Spot Convenience Stores, and the R.L. Jordan Oil Company.
Mitchell has shown driving ability far beyond his young age, but he remains a very humble young man. The day he was on Droppin' the Hammer, he answered questions from Boy Scout Troop #1031 based out of the Lamb of God Lutheran Church in Spartanburg.
The scouts looked over one of Zack's race cars, posed for pictures with Zack, and even asked for his autograph. Perhaps his young age gives Zack a better perspective on how to treat fans. Each night at the track, Zack talks with kids with a humble smile, he accepts the accolades from the adult fans who are amazed by his talent, and when he captures the checkered flag, he thanks his sponsors, crew members, family, and does not step away from the winner's circle until everyone has their pictures.
At 13-years old Zack wants to improve. He has good grades in school, but he says he can work harder and get better grades. He drives well each time on track, but he wants to drive better the next time out.
Mitchell is focused on improving, both in the classroom and on the race track. He has a strong group of folks around him, and with the momentum from the 2009 racing season, 2010 looks to be a even greater year for the race car driver from Enoree known as Kid Quick.