DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Jimmy Zacharias’ past success at Chemung Speedrome has elevated his expectations to the point that winning 40-percent of this year’s modified races qualified as just okay.
“It wasn’t bad,” Zacharias said of his latest championship season at the .375-mile oval located in the hills of New York’s Southern Tier. “It wasn’t as good as the previous four, but it was still good.”
The 23-year-old Zacharias won six of 15 Sunoco Modified division races at Chemung in 2014. While that was technically a step back from wins in eight of 17 features a year ago, it was still plenty sufficient to take home the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series track championship for the second season in a row, and fourth time in five years.
The one season that the Candor, New York, driver didn’t take the track title in the last half decade, his brother T.J. Zacharias did. Five in a row for the family has become a point of pride.
“The whole family is proud of pretty much taking over the speedway the last five years,” Zacharias said. “Between me and my brother, we’re doing everything we can to win races and keeping it all in the family.”
When competing on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, T.J. serves as a crew member for Jimmy’s efforts, but on Friday nights at Chemung the brothers go head-to-head, Jimmy in the No. 71 and T.J. in the 17.
“When we’re competing, we’re still in the same camp, but we do run each other like anybody else,” Zacharias said. “I think we might actually run each other a little harder just for bragging rights at the dinner table.”
Zacharias was able to brag six times in 2014, but his first win didn’t come until the sixth race of the season. It was the consistency that he exhibited in the early going that ultimately put Zacharias in position to win another championship. He was a top-10 finisher in all 15 features, including 13 in the top five behind the wheel of the No. 71 Central States Used Clothing Chevrolet.
“It was more difficult, I can tell you that,” Zacharias said when comparing 2014 to previous seasons. “I had a lot of mechanical problems. We kind of started the year out bad and I didn’t think it (a championship) was going to happen again this year, but nobody gave up and we kept doing everything right. We didn’t have as many wins this year as we’ve had in the past, but we had more consistent finishes this year.”
Zacharias’ main competition this year came from Connor Sellars, a 15-year-old driver who rose from quarter midgets a year ago to compete in Chemung’s NWAAS Division I Sunoco Modifieds this year.
The competition wasn’t quite what you might expect from two front-runners, however.
“His car came out of my camp too,” Zacharias said. “He’s a good friend. Me, my brother and my dad helped him and his dad all year. I helped him on the setup, gave him what he needed and helped him grow into it. It was his first year in the car and he did really great. He raced everybody clean and it was fun racing with him.”
In the end, Zacharias clinched the title with two races to go on the schedule and out-pointed Sellars 970-864 in the final rundown. T.J. Zacharias finished fifth in the track standings.
Since the modern era at Chemung began in 2001 with NASCAR-sanctioned of racing, Zacharias’s four championships are more than any other driver. He was tied with J.R. Kent with three titles entering this year.
“Winning four out of five championships and pretty much dominating all of the races the last five years is something I definitely hold pride in,” Zacharias said. “Nobody has really accomplished that in Chemung’s history, so to be young and to be able to do that is something that is going to carry on with me throughout my life.”
Zacharias’ 2014 championship effort was supported by Floyd’s Used Clothing, NAPA Auto Parts of Candor, Penguin’s Cooling System and Buckley’s Automotive in addition to primary sponsor Central States Used Clothing. Zacharias’ grandfather, Jim, and his parents Terry and Gina own the cars and additional crew help came from his brother T.J., Mike Bohling, Chris Clemens, Matt Clemens, Corey Mosher and Josh Sinsabaugh.
Zacharias’ accomplishments will be recognized alongside champions from each of the 58 NASCAR-sanctioned tracks at the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards on Dec. 12 in the Charlotte (North Carolina) Convention Center at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
-NASCAR IMC Release. Photo Credit: Chemung Speedrome