Daytona Beach, FL — This has been a banner season for asphalt modified drivers, but it’s not just Southern New Englanders enjoying success. A pair of western New York brothers are doing their own part to make this the year of the modifieds.
As of the latest NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division I rankings, four of the top eight in the nation pilot asphalt modifieds, topped by leader Keith Rocco.
Candor, New York’s Jimmy Zacharias checks in at No. 7 this week. His younger brother, T.J., ranks 38th. They also sit first and third, respectively, in the NASCAR New York state standings.
The brothers actually ranked 1-2 in the Empire State points last week, and T.J. was 28th overall, but he decided to skip racing this past Saturday to rest his recently-broken wrist. He wasn’t idle the entire week, however, as he raced on Friday night at the family’s home track, Chemung (N.Y.) Speedrome.
There have been 10 modified division features at the unique .375-mile oval in New York’s Southern Tier. Jimmy has won six, T.J. the other four. The night T.J. broke his wrist in a heat race accident, he bandaged it up, went out and won the feature, then went to the emergency room.
Jimmy has also branched out to Holland (N.Y.) Motorsports Complex this year with the expressed goal of adding a second New York title. His first came in 2013 built on success at Chemung.
“Our expectations are being met at the moment,” Jimmy said. “Winning the state title was the goal from the start, but mow that we’re starting to get a little closer, we’re setting our sights on hopefully a top-three finish in the nation.”
A four-time track titlist at Chemung, Jimmy is now in the running to take home a first track title this year at Holland.
“I didn’t have much experience there before going into the full season there this year,” Jimmy said. “I didn’t start out focused on the Holland title, I started running there for state and national points, but we started winning races there and put us in the championship hunt.”
Jimmy currently ranks second to Tommy Catalano at the .375-mile Holland oval by the count of 252-235. He’s notched two wins so far in the Getzoni Nationwide Insurance Pro Modified Division.
While Jimmy already has a resume of success, T.J. is just now starting to come into his own as a driver after serving on his brother’s team in a crew role.
“I had never won a B-Modified or Sunoco Modified race at Chemung until this year, and so far I’ve got four of them,” T.J. said. “So, so far-so good.”
So far so good, but not without the aforementioned adversity. T.J. had his wrist placed in a cast the night he broke it, competed at Holland the following evening, then had surgery to install two plates and 10 screws last Thursday. With medical clearance he toughed it out for Friday’s 75-lapper at Chemung to stay up in points, but took Saturday off from Holland.
The rest of the way T.J.’s realistic goal is to stay in contention to get the family atop the standings.
“Right now we’re trying to do 1-2 at Chemung for me and Jimmy and hopefully we can also pull off first and second for the state,” T.J. said.
The goals are on track. At Chemung Jimmy leads with 739 points to T.J.’s 689 while in the New York standings Jimmy is first at 526 and T.J. has 352 in third with Matt Sheppard now between them at 357.
Rocco (New London-Waterford Speedbowl, Stafford Motor Speedway, Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park) remains atop the standings for the seventh consecutive week with 642 points. Lee Pulliam (Caraway, Langley, Motor Mile and South Boston Speedways) moved from third to second at 603 while Ryan Preece (Riverhead Raceway, Stafford, Thompson) slipped one spot to third at 599.
Rookie Thomas Tillison Jr. (Flint Creek & Salina Highbanks Speedways) ascended two spots this week to fourth followed by Kres VanDyke (Kingsport Speedway, Lonesome Pine Raceway) in fifth. Matt Bowling (Caraway, Langley, Motor Mile, South Boston), Zacharias, Ted Christopher (New London-Waterford, Stafford, Thompson), Greg Atkins (Airborne Park & Devil’s Bowl Speedways) and Zeke Shell (Kingsport, Lonesome Pine) round out the top 10.
The Whelen All-American Series points season will run through Sunday, Sept. 20.
The top three in the national standings, as well as state and province champions, track champions, top finishers in the Div. II-V and special award winners, will be honored at the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards in December.
Established in 1982, the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series is NASCAR’s national championship program for weekly short track auto racing. In all, 58 paved and dirt tracks throughout the United States and Canada participate.
Connecticut-based Whelen Engineering is the series’ title sponsor. Whelen Engineering is a leading manufacturer of automotive, aviation, industrial and emergency vehicle lighting. NASCAR tracks and pace cars across North America are among the many showcases for Whelen products.
-NASCAR IMC Press Release. Photo Credit: Speed51.com