Zane Zeiner took the checkers this past Sunday at the Wyoming County International Speedway (NY) for his biggest payday so far in 2015. The American 100 was an ‘open’ Modified show that was recently organized, attracting competitors from all over the Northeast for the $10,000 top prize at the 1/3-mile bullring.
The difference in accomplishing this win was changing his focus using the equipment the team brought.
“That was a two-barrel car,” Zeiner told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “To start the weekend (on Saturday), we were a good 2/10 of a second off. I went back to the hotel thinking we brought the wrong car, but started thinking that if I’m going to win this we’ll have to do it in the turns. We practiced and practiced, focusing on car handling rather than straightaway speed.”
Zeiner, who was coming off a runner-up finish the previous Sunday in a different car for the Race of Champions 200 at Chemung Speedrome (NY), started seventh and slowly marched his way toward the front.
However, on a restart the Bath, Pennsylvania driver was involved in an incident that ended with Austin Kochenash spinning out, and as part of the altercation was sent to the rear. As a result, the team decided to take the opportunity to use a little pit strategy and make some adjustments.
After halfway, it was time to go for the win and challenge the driver that finished a spot ahead of him the previous week, Matt Hirschman.
“I knew Matt was riding,” Zeiner said. “In my mind, whoever got to the front first would have won the race. I started picking them off and ended up at the front.”
With a few more major events to go to conclude the 2015 racing season, Hirschman and Zeiner appear to be the drivers to beat based on results in recent weeks. Hirschman finished second to Zeiner on Sunday. Zeiner knows that if it comes down to the two of them it will typically be the one that has the better car and can make the right moves that ends up on top.
“Matt and I have the same aggressive driving styles,” Zeiner noted. “We race each other hard, but we won’t take each other out. We’ll work with each other to get to the front.”
While there are several events coming up, Zeiner and team tend to tackle their plan one race at a time. Next up is Octoberfast at Mahoning Valley Speedway (PA) this Saturday, an event in which only he and Hirschman are the past winners in the three year history of the event.
Zeiner will be taking the same SK/Sportsman type Modified he won with in Perry, New York to the Tour Modified 150-lap race at the ¼-mile.
“Mahoning is similar, but is one of the toughest tracks,” Zeiner said. “It changes so much over the course of a day when it reacts to the weather. We’ll take it one week at a time and put ourselves in a situation for the win.”
Although the driver of the familiar No. 76 has many big wins over the years, much of his recent success is due to a multiple time champion crew chief in the Modified ranks to consult with.
“I have to give a lot of credit to a guy behind the scenes that nobody really sees, Barry Kuhnel,” Zeiner mentioned. “I probably wouldn’t be here without him. We used to run well, but fall back near the end and now he helps make sense of what’s going on.
“Hats off to him and the whole crew. With all the different owners I run for, it’s amazing that we all get along.”
-By Aaron Creed, Speed51.com New York/Pennsylvania Editor - Twitter: @Aaron_Creed
-Photo Credit: Mojo Photos