Quickly Making a Name for Himself in 410 Racing
Mechanicsburg, PA – October 5, 2020 – By Addicted2Dirt PR & Media Management
When Johnny Gibson, the long-time voice of the World of Outlaws (WoO), exclaims things like “…you don’t see that very often at Williams Grove!” with that recognizable elevated level of excitement in his voice as he describes a pass you just made on a veteran driver, you know you’re doing something right. Gibson and his co-broadcaster, the legendary writer and announcer, Bruce Ellis, both called Newlin’s name multiple times, noting moves that didn’t appear rookie-like. No, the results from the weekend won’t make the headlines in the racing papers, but Zach Newlin was clearly doing something right during the 58th Annual Champion Oil National Open on October 2nd-3rd in Mechanicsburg, PA.
41 days. That’s how long ago Zach Newlin strapped himself into a winged 410 sprint car for the first time ever. Already he had a few PA races and a few All Star Circuit of Champions races under his belt, now he found himself about to strap in for Williams Grove’s famous National Open and compete in his first World of Outlaws races. It was a life-long dream suddenly coming true for Newlin, his brother and the entire family. What a whirlwind 6 weeks. He possesses a racing career that has spanned over 20 years but he had only moved into 358 sprints earlier in this pandemic-shortened season. Burke Motorsports also has a long history competing successfully at various levels of open wheel motorsports. Both parties have recorded a lot of success over those years, but this weekend would be a new and memorable challenge for all.
Night one of the National Open was Newlin’s 6th career 410 sprint car start and only his 2nd at Williams Grove Speedway. The Burke Motorsports team did not have much 410 competition under their belt either prior to joining forces with Newlin a couple months ago, so team expectations were realistic coming into their first Outlaw competition. To add to the challenge, they would be racing against the toughest competition in the country with a new motor and new shock package that they had not had an opportunity to shake down yet.
Friday, October 2nd Recap
Friday night saw 57 cars sign in and it was evident early that the track was very fast, which would make passing difficult, unless the surface somehow managed to dry out and widen out by the latter part of the night. Time trials are always important in WoO competition but tonight they would likely be even more so. Zach was the 5th car to take time in flight 2. He ended up 28th in his flight but to put that in perspective, only 0.93 seconds separated him from a top ten time. Like I said, tough competition. There is zero room for error behind the wheel or when making setup decisions.
The qualifying result meant Newlin would need to run the non-qualifiers race. Under WoO rules for a car count of this number, the top 40 overall qualifiers transfer directly to the heat races, while the remaining teams must run a non-qualifiers race. The top 4 finishers from that event are then added to the heat races (1 to each of the 4 heats), while the remaining finishers transfer to the D-main.
Only having had a few hot laps and 2 qualifying laps under their belt in the orange #54 Grove Financial & Associates, Dillman Hauling, LLC., Kriner Racing Engines, Sander Engineering, DMI, Burke Motorsports, Maxim Chassis, it was hard to know what adjustments to make. The team made their best educated guess at improvements and Newlin rolled off 14th. He managed to move forward and finish 10th in the 8-lap event. It wasn’t enough to advance to a heat race of course, but it was a positive result for driver and team. Given his lack of laps in a 410 sprint car, it’s still hard to tell when the car needs changes or when he needs to adjust his style.
Next up was the 8-lap D-main from which only the top two finishers would advance to the back of the C-main starting lineup. Zach started and finished 6th in the event, bringing an end to the on track activities for the team Friday night. Back in the pits though, there was still plenty of activity. Shawn & Austin Burke, along with Zach Newlin, brother Lance and the rest of the crew discussed and analyzed the night, making notes and decisions they could leverage the following night.
Saturday, October 3rd Recap
Night number two of the highest paying sprint car race in the nation in 2020 started off with a similar circumstance for Newlin and the Burke Motorsports team. 54 cars entered competition and Newlin was slated to take his timed qualifying laps 3rd in flight 2. That’s where the similarities ended though. On this night, he recorded the 22nd quickest lap in his group, with a lap that was only 0.575 seconds off of a top ten time and only 0.863 seconds behind the fastest car in flight 2. It was a significant improvement from the prior night and a promising sign.
Still just outside the cutoff for the heat races despite the improvement, Zach lined up 4th for the 8-lap non-qualifiers race. Once again tonight, the top 4 finishers would advance to the heat race lineups. Newlin held that final transfer spot for a few laps, capturing the attention of the broadcast crew with strong moves and smart choices. Finally, Brian Montieth slipped by him and soon after Kyle Moody followed. With two laps remaining, the caution lights flashed on, giving Newlin a chance to collect himself and regroup. The ensuing restart is when the rookie 410 driver really grabbed the attention of Johnny Gibson and Bruce Ellis as they called the action. Zach powered around the high side of turns 1 and 2, overtaking Moody and Montieth and reclaiming the final transfer spot. One lap later the trio went three-wide off turn 2 in a heated battle to advance to a heat race. Ultimately Newlin lost the spot, blaming himself for a couple bad choices during the battle.
Newlin was determined to make the most of his 2nd starting spot in the 8-lap D-main. It had been a better night thus far for the team and it would only be right if the end result reflected it. He held the position throughout the event, never allowing Montieth to get close enough to challenge for the position, and transferred into the C-main. Newlin would start 13th in the C-main. It was another chance to test himself. That’s all he could ask for against such a tough field. It was another 10 laps of learning. Zach brought it home 12th, ending his night with a much more confident feeling than 24 hours earlier.
There were plenty of smiles around the Burke Motorsports pit when the weekend concluded. “Tonight was definitely a turn around. I just need to keep learning“, Newlin said. “We had a new shock package on the car this weekend, so we were learning that. We made changes to that program based on what we experienced last night. After hot laps tonight, my confidence was back. We still have to change some things on the car, but we will get there“, he concluded.
By the time the 58th Annual Champion Oil National Open weekend had come to a close, two important things had happened. Number one: Zach Daddy had learned a lot in a short period of time by racing in an environment of elevated competition. Number two: fans had taken notice of Newlin. Sprint car fans are passionate and knowledgeable about their sport, especially those in Central PA, and they are seasoned enough to look beyond results to see things. Those fans saw something in Newlin. Social media contained comments like “Zach Newlin will be he next young driver to develop into a good 410 driver in a year or two“. Will the predictions come true? I suggest you follow along and find out.
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