For 19-year-old Granite State native Zach Nicholson, winning the most recent Pro All Stars Series (PASS) Modified race at Oxford Plains Speedway was a huge accomplishment. It represented what can happen when hard work and dedication are applied, and proved what can be done with focus and effort.
WATCH LIVE: PASS Modifieds at Hudson
“That win meant so much to me, it’s hard to describe,” a still elated Nicholson said. “It represented a lot of hard work to get here. It’s still incredible to me. I went into the season just hoping to earn a few top-10 finishes, get a real feel for these cars, and learn all the tracks.
“That was only my third time ever competing at Oxford. I had never really done much racing up there. I had a pretty good run at Lee, finishing fourth which was my best run of the year until last Sunday. I’m fortunate enough to have Spencer Morse as a friend, who has tons of experience there. He helped me.”
For those not familiar with his background in the sport, Nicholson does not have extensive seat time in a full-bodied race car. He’s only been racing off and on since 2016, and unless you’re a hardcore fan of Wildcats at Beech Ridge, it’s safe to say you probably don’t know a whole lot about this young man.
“I hadn’t really done a whole lot of racing before I came into this series,” Nicholson explained. “I had that Wildcat I ran at Beech Ridge in 2016 and 2017. That was just me and my Dad doing that deal, and we finally pulled off a win one time.
“I’m very much self-funded in this program now. I try not to ask a lot of my parents, I like to do most of this on my own. I pay the operating costs, and I do the work on the car. I take pride in that, so that win on Sunday meant so much more to me than it would have to some others. I’m lucky to be in this spot.”
Nicholson is coming of age in the series at a time when the mix of talent is deeper than it’s been since its inception. He realizes the skills and years of experience his rivals bring to the oval.
“We have a very high level of competition in these Mods this year,” he said. “You’ve got guys like Spencer who’ve raced at the Super Model level before, veterans from other divisions, and guys who’re using the Mods to get their feet wet in racing. It’s an incredible mix right now, loaded with talent.”
When Nicholson unloads at the speedway and gets set to go racing, he climbs into a very unique car.
“I had this car as a Late Model Sportsman I ran at Lee,” he explained. “I converted it into a Modified over the winter, I saw what was happening in the series and decided I would give it a try. I really like the PASS Mods; I love the look of the cars, and they are such a blast to drive. I’m so glad we did this.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to work with Jeremy Davis, owner of Davis Chassis Works. I’ve been able to work on lots of PASS Mods, long before I got my own. So I was familiar with them, and Jeremy has taught me so much. I started to like the cars. Now that we’re having success, I’m hooked even more.”
Working on race cars for a living is something most racers dream of daily. For Nicholson, it’s reality.
“I’ve been working for Jeremy for three and a half years now,” he explained. “When I first started, I figured I’d be lucky to sweep the floors and do other little tasks. But he threw me right into the fire; he taught me how to build a chassis, how to hang interior tin-work and how to do setups on the cars.
“He’s helped me and guided me in that way, to learn and build cars with him, which propelled me to tackle other jobs and expand my knowledge. He’s been the best mentor I could ever have in racing.”
Nicholson says the growing open-wheel touring series fills a void for racers all over New England.
“It’s the perfect home for guys who can’t afford or don’t want to go the ACT or PASS North route,” he added. “They’re cheap to maintain and race, they’re quick little cars and offer a ton of fun for the money. When you get them dialed in, the fun factor is off the charts.”
Along with his amazing ability to study, learn and apply that knowledge to what he’s doing, Nicholson also has a few key people working hard on his behalf to keep his racing program on-track.
“I’m so grateful to have the support of so many good people,” he said. “I want to thank Jeremy Davis, Tasha, Jaden, Don, Ricky, Mom, Dad, Kim, Mike, Jim and Alex for all they do for me. I appreciate them all more than they know.
“I’m also blessed with some great sponsors and have to thank them for being on board, including Davis Chassis Works, Kid Logic, Vinny & Charlene, Steve, Overhead Door Options, M.A. Kenison Builder & Mason, Nicholson Racing, Chasing The Checkered, Black Flagged Podcast, Eleveight Design and Siro Tac. I couldn’t do this without them.”
As summer rolls into New England and the PASS Mods warriors stay on the gas, Nicholson knows what he wants to accomplish before the final checkered flag waves.
“I’m having an absolute blast in this series, and just want to keep learning and honing my skills. That win exceeded my expectations, and it raised my confidence level. Now, I know I belong up front and can run with the fast guys. I’m going to really enjoy the rest of this season.”
Next up for the PASS Modifieds is a trip to high banks of Hudson Speedway this Sunday. Fans unable to make it to Hudson, New Hampshire will be able to watch the race live on Speed51.TV.
-Story by Phil Whipple, Speed51.com Northeast Correspondent
-Photo by Norm Marx/PASS