With the inaugural Commonwealth Classic now under a month away at Richmond Raceway (VA), the anticipation level has risen considerably. This is especially true for teams who were entered for the original race date last October, before the event us rescheduled due to weather.
Jimmy Zacharias is one such driver who has waited since last fall for this opportunity. The Upstate New York Modified ace has been eager to test his mettle at the legendary ¾-mile Virginia oval. In fact, it is the only race he has been thinking about since returning from New Smyrna Speedway (FL) last month, as he is electing to keep his pavement schedule very select in 2019.
“Once the race came out on the schedule last year, we were pretty excited about it. We only ran one asphalt race last year, the Race of Champions, then we did Florida again this year, and it’s looking like Richmond will be the only asphalt race until Lake Erie with the Race of Champions again this year,” Zacharias told Speed51.com.
Last visited by the “Mighty Modifieds” when Richmond was on the 2002 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour schedule, well before the Candor, NY driver’s time in a racecar, Zacharias has been keen on not letting such an opportunity pass by.
“When they ran Richmond back in the day with the Tour it was before my time, so we never got to do something like that,” he explained. “So, once they announced this one, we were pretty stoked and looking forward to it. I’ve been fortunate to race tracks like Bristol, New Hampshire, and stuff like that. But to add Richmond, that’s going to be a fun one.”
One of Richmond’s main attractions for the PASS Commonwealth Classic across all classes is the promise of speed. With that speed, comes a lot of work for the teams in the available practice sessions. Even with a gritty to do list facing him and the No. 71 crew, Zacharias knows that they will not be the only team facing the challenge.
“Everyone knows that the Modifieds are one of the fastest cars out there, it’ll be different that’s for sure,” he stated. “The car should be good, we had it out in Florida for all those races, so we knew what we had to change to make the car better. Once we get to Richmond, we’re still going to be chasing ourselves around for a little bit, but just like everybody else.”
To help the learning process, Zacharias is calling on a fellow Modified driver who has seen laps at Richmond back in the day.
“I’ve been fortunate to get a little help from Eric Beers, who ran Richmond back in the Tour days. I don’t know if it will apply to what we’re running for tire combinations and stuff like that nowadays. But, we’re going to go with what he suggests to start with, get plenty of seat time, and get ourselves better for the long run.”
Overall, Zacharias sees no reason why he and the team can’t win the 75-lap feature on March 30.
“I don’t go to racetrack thinking I don’t have a good shot to win,” he commented. “I think everybody’s mindset is the same for the most part. I know we’re going with a good piece, good combination, and it will come down to who figures out the place the quickest. A lot of the guys that raced the Tour back in the day won’t be there, so their hand over us won’t be in play. It should be an even playing field.”
Other than the 2019 Race of Champions 250 in Lake Erie, PA, the racing calendar for Zacharias is unclear and light both on asphalt and Crate Modified racing on dirt. But, that is by design with the former NASCAR New York State champion taking time away from the race car for family, and using time in the race car to just have some fun without the pressure of a points race.
“I’m taking a step back, honestly. Last year, I went dirt racing to have fun again, and I got caught up in the weekly racing as much as I could,” Zacharias said. “It worked out well though, I ended up winning the championship at Thunder Mountain, but it’s something we weren’t planning on doing. So, this year I’m going to spend more time away from the race track than I ever have. I got a race car I’m building for my kid right now, got a boat to take to the lake, and race when I want to.”
The PASS Commonwealth Classic will take place March 30, 2019 at Richmond Raceway (VA). Entry forms, schedules and more information can be found by visiting www.proallstarsseries.com.
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com