The 2017 season was a year of two racing lives for Jimmy Zacharias, as he once again put a dominating performance in his No. 71 Modified on Upstate New York’s asphalt tracks. But it was also one of change, as the Candor, NY driver took up dirt racing, competing in Crate Sportsman races across the state.
 
 
For 2018, Crate racing has become a big focus and now Zacharias is ready to take it one step further this coming Sunday, as he will enter his first Dirt Modified event in the Short Track Super Series Lightning on the Mountain event at Thunder Mountain Speedway in Center Lisle, NY.
 
 
While it will be Zacharias’ first time competing on dirt with upwards of 600 horsepower, it will be with a powerplant that he is familiar with on the hard top.
 
 
“We’ve been talking about this for a couple of months now and we finally put it all together this week. It’s one of my Tour Modified engines, we changed a couple of things over to handle the dirt stuff. We got her done, prepped and ready to go, first time in a Dirt Modified,” Zacharias told Speed51.com.
 
 
One matter that Zacharias does not have to concern himself with is track time at Thunder Mountain. In fact, he is currently third in the track’s Saturday night Crate Sportsman division points, and is even in another early points battle in Crates up the road at Outlaw Speedway in Dundee.
 
 
“I’ve been running Outlaw on Friday nights and Thunder Mountain Saturday’s, that’s the main focus right now. Outlaw we have two sevenths and a third so far. Thunder Mountain we led a whole race until two to go and ended up third. It’s been pretty good, looking like a good year on the dirt side.”
 
 
Though the year is still early, and has been plagued by bad weather, the dirt rich schedule has already given a huge boost Zacharias’ overall morale as a driver.
 
 
“I love it, it’s a big change for me. It’s kind of what I needed, getting away from asphalt a bit, brings me back to really enjoying racing and having lots of fun again. I’ve met a lot of new people and tried a lot of new things, given me a lot to look forward too.”
 
 
Sunday’s upcoming attempt will mark the second major regional series debut for Zacharias, following his start for veteran car owner Ted Marsh in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East this past February at New Smyrna Speedway (FL).
 
 
“It’s kind of the way we wanted it this year, to try new things and do something different. The K&N deal was last minute, we took a shot at it and it wasn’t bad. Now we’re going to do the same thing with the Dirt Mod. I’ve had some people step up and help me out, which I really appreciate.”
 
 
After years of competing against the greats on pavement, Zacharias is looking forward to doing the same on dirt; including one who has become a mentor in his dirt upbringing.
 
 
“It’ll be neat to go up against some of the best Dirt Modified drivers. I’ve run against the best on asphalt, now it’s time to do it on the dirt. I can’t wait to see what we can do. We’ve been getting some help from one of the best Dirt Mod drivers, Danny Creeden, he’s helped me a lot since we started. He’s supported me, given information that I need, he’s been a big help.”
 
 
While Zacharias would like nothing more than to win Sunday, he knows that making it to the 50-lap feature will be a major challenge itself.
 
 
“The main goal is to walk into the gate and make it into the main show, that’s how it goes with dirt racing. These Short Track Super Series races you could have 60 cars show up and any of them can win. Hopefully the draw goes in our favor, we get a good starting spot in the heat race and we make it through.”
 
 
As for the future, nothing is set in stone yet. But fans can expect to see more of Zacharias, both in and out of the STSS.
 
 
“Absolutely, if this maiden voyage goes well we’re going to break out the Modified some more. The Crate car will be our main focus to run hopefully for a couple of championships this year and the American Racer Cup. But I got a new Modified engine that actually just got finished being built, so we’ll swap the motor out, put the new one in and give some more of the big races a go.”
 
 
Fans unable to make the trip to Thunder Mountain Speedway Sunday will be able to see all the day’s competition tape-delayed this coming Monday for free as a premium subscriber on the Speed51 Network.
 
 
-By: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo Credit: Rick Ibsen

Zacharias Hoping to Find Lightning in a Bottle at Thunder Mountain