Dalton Zehr proved this past season that it doesn’t take a countless number of wins to become a champion. In fact, in this case, it didn’t take any. The 25-year-old, who has over 100 feature wins in his career, recently won the 2017 TUNDRA Super Late Model Series championship without winning a race.
Zehr’s third career TUNDRA championship was won with determination after a somewhat challenging season for the Port Orange, FL driver.
“We had an up and down season, but luckily we were able to come out with enough top three and top-five finishes to clinch the championship in TUNDRA,” Zehr told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “We started the season really strong with leading most of the race and finishing second with a part breaking. That’s kind of what I mean by up and down. We broke at two races but both times we broke very late in the race. We were able to limp it home and still be in tech at the end. Our bad days were not so bad but they were also days we had potential wins in the bag.”
Knowing there was potential in the car, the team and the driver to win was hard on the team week after week when their impressive runs weren’t equating to impressive results. However, the team didn’t give up in their chase for victory, and because of that their consistent finishes turned into another championship season.
“Consistency comes with persistence,” Zehr stated. “We had our bad days, but despite them, we got back on the track or stayed on the track and we fought to the bitter end. Rather than just hanging it up we kept going and that’s what gave us the championship.”
The 2017 TUNDRA champion knew that his team was in for a great season when they were fast right from the get-go. Entering the 2017 season, Zehr was well prepared for what was coming his way.
“From the start of the season, we led in points so we knew we were contending for the championship the whole time. Anytime you go after the championship, you go after it thinking you’re going to contend for it,” he said. “One of those things you have to do to maintain and stay in the lead; we paid attention to our competitors. Each race is its own, do the best you can every time and where the chips fall they fall. ‘
Zehr was smart and played his cards the right way when it came down to who was going to be there at the end. Racing isn’t about only worrying about yourself, rather making sure you’re keeping up with your competitors. As the season neared its conclusion, Zehr was on top of his strategy, weighing risk versus reward going into his final races of the season.
“Second in points was a spot ahead of me but I was perfectly content sitting right there,” he said of the final race. “There was no reason to take risks that could potentially cost us the championship rather than just finishing the race within 12 positions of second (Zehr needed to finish within 12 positions of the second-place driver in points car to clinch the championship) and he was within two so that’s where we sat.
“I think about the individual race until you get to the end. My last race it seems like is always more of ‘What do we have to do for points?’”
Zehr is a firm believer in the saying “Race your race and points will come your way.” He is not a proponent of points racing all year long, as he believes it to be straining on a championship run.
“Each race you do your best, what would you do differently for points? There are some occasions where you take less risk if you’re points racing. I usually only think that way when it comes to the end of the season; the last race, maybe the last two. You can’t think about it all season. You’re going to need those top finishes and usually, those top finishes have some risk involved.”
After another championship season, Zehr proved that through consistency, persistence and not giving up, you can work hard and have what it takes to become a champion. He showed the mindset of a true champion this season in the TUNDRA Super Late Model Series.
(Editor’s Note: Although Zehr failed to win a TUNDRA race in 2017, it should be noted that he still recorded a double-digit tally in the win column. His wins included a pair of ARCA Midwest Tour victories and Late Model wins throughout the Midwest.)
-Story by: Kendra Adams, Speed51.com Southeast Correspondent
-Photo credit: Dalton Zehr Racing Facebook