ZACH OVERCOMES CHALLENGES AT TENNESSEE TRACKS

This past weekend the team went to compete at two new tracks with the Spring Nationals Series. Zach entered the series third in the point standings following the double header weekend at Senoia two weeks previously.

Friday night the team was at Tazewell Speedway, a 1/3 mile dirt oval with super high banking that provides intense fast-paced racing action. There were 30 drivers competing for one of the 22 spots available in the $5,000 to win event. Zach got on the track for hot laps and wasn't able to complete one lap. There was an issue with the right front of the car making it difficult to turn and the car slide into the outside wall in turns 1 & 2. Luckily there wasn't any major damage but Zach pulled off the track and headed back to the pits to make adjustments prior to qualifying. With no prior laps on this very challenging track, Zach went out to qualify. He was about 3 tenths off the fastest driver in his group and would have to compete in a heat race to try and secure a spot in the feature. Zach started P8 out of 10 drivers in his heat race. The top 6 finishers would transfer into the feature. There were several cautions during the 10-lap heat race. With each lap, Zach became more competitive and was able to stay out of trouble and finish P3. He had made it into his first feature at Tazewell!

Zach started the 40-lap feature in P14. There were a few cautions early on and Zach barely missed avoiding becoming part of the incidents which occurred right in front of him. During the longest green flag run Zach was sailing on the high side of the high banks until "the big one" erupted in turns 1 & 2 collecting about seven drivers in front of Zach. He turned the wheel hard right towards the outside wall to try to avoid making contact with the cars left sitting on the track facing in different directions. He had almost made it through but contact was made from another car pushing Zach into the wall, but Zach kept on moving so he wouldn't be considered part of the caution and have to restart in the rear. He restarted in P9, however, the car's handling had been affected by the contact and he lost several positions. Several laps later while under another caution Zach's left front tire popped and went flat. He was able to come into the pits and change tires while under caution. He restarted in the rear of the field and finished P16 on the lead lap.

On the following day the team arrived at Volunteer Speedway early in the day to maintenance and wash the car. Volunteer is a high banked (32 degrees worth), 4/10 dirt track. The facility is huge and was absolutely packed with fans. 26 drivers were on hand for the $10,052 to win 52-lap Scott Sexton Memorial event. Zach was hoping for a smoother flowing night than the night before but that just didn't happen. Zach went out for hot laps and as he took the green on the first lap the car experienced a parts failure in turns 1 & 2. Zach came to a stop and had to be towed in to the pit area. Upon inspection by the pit crew, the JBar and driveshaft were going to have to be replaced in order for Zach to compete and the team did not have a spare of either part. Zach reached out to other drivers in the series and finally was able to find the parts he needed. However, they could not complete the repairs prior to qualifying. Zach would have to make his first laps on this new racetrack in a heat race starting at the tail-end of the field.

Zach started P7 in his heat race. He purposely laid back several car lengths behind field on the start so he could get some good laps on the track. By the end of the race Zach had caught the rear of the field and appeared to have a competitive racecar but he didn't secure a transfer spot and would have to race in a last chance consi (top 4 would transfer). He started P9 out of 10 drivers in the 10-lap consi. He appeared to be much more comfortable in the car than earlier in the heat race and was picking up the track well. With about 5 laps to go he was racing hard for P5 and went 3-wide with two other drivers down the frontstretch. One of the other drivers made contact with Zach causing Zach to spin around and roll backwards approaching the inside pit wall very quickly. Luckily he was able to come to a stop before making contact with the wall but he had to restart in the rear. With only a few laps left to go in the consi, he started making passes but ran out of laps finishing P6.

The good news is Zach had a provisional available since he came into Volunteer P2 in the series points. He would start the feature in 21st out of 22 drivers. The race went caution free for about 40 laps which allowed for the leaders to catch the rear of the field. Zach went a lap down but continued to fight for positions as well. In the final 10 laps of the race there two cautions. Zach ended up bringing home P17 at his first feature start at the track.

Zach takes us through the weekend, "Both Tazewell and Volunteer are really fun, fast tracks. At Tazewell the left tire was rubbing on the brace which had broken from contact in the big one that occurred in turn 1. I heard it pop while under caution and decided to come into the infield to pit. The front right shock was also damaged. The car was handling pretty good up until that point. Feels pretty good to have survived a track with such a reputation for being one of the fastest in the country. Really hated that we couldn't get any hot laps in at either track but we had two solid runs at both tracks given what we were up against. Volunteer is much more forgiving than Tazewell. Both tracks are unlike anything we have ever run at before so it was good experience for the team. Have to thank EDI, Napa of Kennesaw, Clint Smith Racing, GW Performance, Hoosier by Brian, Tray Sees Photography and Motorsports Engine for all of their support. Also have to thank Ryan Burkhart for his help in the pits. I also have to give a huge shoutout to Ryan King and Casey Roberts Racing/Blount Motorsports for all of their help this weekend. Ryan was a big help at Tazewell and CRR/Blount provided us with the parts we needed to be able to race at Volunteer."

Leonhardi Motorsports, LLC

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