When it comes to local competition, Norway Speedway sets the bar pretty high. This Friday night, the ARCA Midwest Tour presented by Scag Power Equipment Touring Stars will have the chance to put that local competition to the test.
In 2013, Dalton Zehr claimed the track championship winning nine out of eleven races in his first full season. Zehr is originally from Boise, ID where he lived for 10 years, then moved to Florida for another 10 years, and eventually moved to Michigan after he met Gene Coleman and started running his car. He has since never looked back.
“I liked racing up here (Midwest). There were better car counts and better fields of cars. The weekly competition at Norway brings around 20 cars, and anytime you have that many cars, you have solid competition,” said Zehr.
When the ARCA Midwest Tour makes its way to Zehr’s home track, he admits it changes the level of competition, but not his chances in being a contender for the win.
“They are not your standard cars. All of the Tour guys are used to travelling to a lot of different tracks and can pick up a new track in a hurry. It seems that almost everyone of them is a track champion somewhere. So basically you have to beat 15-20 champions,” admitted Zehr.
The 2013 track champion recognizes that bringing in the ARCA Midwest Tour doesn’t replace the weekly competition, it doubles it.
“Ty Majeski seems to be tough at any track. Of course Austin Nason has been strong, and there’s Chris Weinkauf, too. There’s quite a few guys that will be really tough. I feel like there’s going to be a couple really quick local cars. Guys like Dan Lindsley, Dillon Kralovetz, and Kris Kelly are always racing for the win at all the specials, so they are definitely going to be tough,” said Zehr.
Dalton has competed with the Tour on a handful of occassions, so he is familiar with some of the differences that take place during an event. With his experience in both the Tour and at Norway Speedway, Zehr has an understanding of how to adapt and what challenges some of his fellow local competitors might face.
One of those differences is in the tire compound. The Midwest Tour runs a softer tire than the track runs on a weekly basis. This provides more grip and more speed than the local drivers are used to. Zehr actually sees this as a positive.
“I actually prefer a softer tire. I’ve always been really good on the softer compounds, so I don’t see that as a disadvantage for me. I think the local guys might have a little bit harder time qualifying because the procedures are a little different with the Tour qualifying on stickers. They are going to lay down some amazing laps,” Zehr said.
“Some of the local guys might have to race their way in, but at the end of the day, you’ll see them in the top five,” he added.
When it comes to advantages, Zehr feels that it won’t necessarily be about having a better set-up for him. He sees his advantage simply being the experience that he holds at the 1/3 mile oval.
“If I’m going to have an advantage anywhere, it’s going to be Norway. I think hometrack advantage is all about line discipline. When you know where the preferred line is, you don’t over drive it. You don’t run hard trying to find speed, you run that preferred line no matter what. I think that’s what makes the locals so hard to beat,” he said.
Dalton isn’t too worried about the invasion of the Tour when it comes to his chances at a victory.
“I think I have as good a chance as anyone. The goal is to go out there and qualify in the top 10, and after that if the race doesn’t go against us, we should be in the top three challenging for the lead,” Zehr said.
“It’s never an easy task winning a race,” he added.
There is a pretty good chance that fans will see Zehr challenging for the lead this Friday night just as he did in 2013, finishing second to three-time event winner, Nathan Haseleu.
“We finished second the last time we raced the event. I hope we can do better this time.”
The only way Dalton Zehr can improve on his 2013 performance is to put the car in victory lane, and that’s exactly what he is setting out to do. So be sure to head out to Norway Speedway this Friday, August 14th, for the Duel for Diabetes 100 and see one of the best, Touring versus local, battles yet this season.
Spectator gates open at 5:00pm with qualifying set to begin at 5:45. There will be an ARCAMT autograph session in the grandstands at 6:15pm. Racing will begin at 7:00pm.
The ARCA Midwest Tour will be joined by the Sport Trucks, Street Stocks, and Fab Four.
For complete event details, log on to arcamidwesttour.com
Be sure to follow the ARCA Midwest Tour on Facebook (/midwesttour) and Twitter (@midwesttour).
Story by: Kari Shear Carlson – ARCA MT PR
Photo Credit: Speed51.com