Civic pride puts Mitchell behind Grundy ride
Lockport resident Zach Mitchell drove a Honda CRX in high school and because of it is now a racer at the Grundy County Speedway in the Pure Stock Division.
While that statement may be an over simplification, the connection is nonetheless there. Regardless, Mitchell finds himself at the top of the Pure Stock standings and battling for a track championship.
Mitchell is a 28-year old roofer who has been racing out at Grundy for the past three years. Prior to that, he "did a little road racing for fun," but it wasn't until three years ago he actually got in a ride and headed to Grundy.
"I've always been into cars, mostly Hondas," Mitchell said. "My friend Kyle Carlson raced down there for probably two years before I joined. One time I went to watch him and after that I went home, put a car together and was out racing in two weeks."
Carlson raced at Grundy in the Pure Stock Division three times in 2008 and full seasons in 2009 and 2010 before eventually leaving for the dirt track racing at Kankakee.
"(Mitchell) was a year younger then me in high school, but we had mutual friends," Carlson said. "And we both drove a Honda CRX in high school. One day he and one of my other buddies came and watched me race and afterwards he said 'that looks fun'. He said he was going to get into racing at that time, but I didn't believe him. Then two or three weeks later there he was, out there on the track."
Mitchell said that he had the right combination of things to get right into the sport.
"I had the money, a lot of free time and I had the car," Mitchell said of getting his No. 21, 1990 Honda Civic Hatchback ready to hit the local oval. "I had to rip everything thing out and one of my sponsors put a roll cage on it and I was off and running."
Mitchell said that his story is what the Grundy Speedway wants in that particular division.
"That's the whole premise. People like me are supposed to get a car, put a small amount of money in and race," he said. "It's a way to get people onto the track."
At the moment, Mitchell is locked up in a battle with Rich Dearborn at the top of the standings with just three points between them, 815-812. Dearborn is the defending division champion.
Mitchell said that he is basically a one-man crew out at Grundy on Friday nights.
"I had one guy who helped me out a lot, but he moved and this year it's basically just me," he said. "Other than pulling out the dents, there's not too much work to do, though. We do what we can do, but basically in our division, it's just get in and go."
Mitchell said that he he's steadily been climbing up the leader board the past few years, starting with an 11th place finish and then getting fourth last season. He said that he likes the Pure Stock Division but is pining to move up to the Street Stocks, where more work can be done to improve the performance of the cars.
"I don't want to bad mouth anyone but all the drivers would like to do more to make their cars faster," Mitchell said. "Right now there are standards (at Grundy) set for how you can tune the car and what it's done is level the playing field as far as lap times. It also makes it harder to step up in class."
A move up is something Mitchell is hoping will happen starting with the 2013 season.
"This will probably be my last season in Pure Stocks," he said. "I've been talking to people about moving up to Street Stocks, but they are just listening right now. It's up to me to give then something that shows them I am ready to move up."