Written By: Amy Harrop
Coming out of a successful 2016 racing season where he earned “Rookie of the Year” honors at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in the Wildcats division, Zach Nicholson still had many goals in mind as he entered his sophomore season in 2017. Although 2016 was a good year for the young driver, he still wanted more. What was the top goal on his list? A feature victory in 2017. After an entire season full of ups and downs, Zach Nicholson finally captured his first feature victory in an accident-ridden 30-lap feature on Saturday night at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough, Maine.
Coming into the night, Zach had clearly made his mark at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway, earning himself 9 top-5 finishes in 13 weeks of competition. The orange and blue #21 was a consistent figure at the front of the pack each and every week, fighting for position. Like all drivers do, Zach did have some tough weeks, including being caught up in a frightening wreck in turn 3 on July 22nd, a wreck that led to him being transported to Maine Medical Center with a sprained ankle. No matter what happens to him out on the track, Zach never gives up. After his wreck, he brushed himself off and returned to competition the very next week; only to take home yet another top-5 finish in his division. Due to his many qualifying heat race victories over the course of the season, people started to deem Zach as the “Heat Race Hero”. This motivated him to work harder to finally secure that first career victory he had been longing for for two years.
Zach entered the final night of competition in fourth in the point standings, just ten points behind his competitor and longtime mentor, Lewis Anderson. “My goal going into the night was to finish ahead of the #81 by 6 positions to secure third in points. That was really my plan,” he says. The day started off bright and early, with the entire Nicholson crew making the voyage to Scarborough from their home base in Ossipee, New Hampshire. When they arrived at the race track, everything was going smoothly until the final practice. During the final practice, Zach pulled back into the pits early, leaving his team in a frantic frenzy. He had wound up breaking the lower ball joint on his car, which bent the inner tie rod. “I was a little bit nervous about what happened and if the car would handle the same. But, everyone in the pits was on it immediately and my team went straight to work. I couldn’t have gone out without my Dad, my Uncle Mike, my cousin Ricky, Randy from No Such Chassis and everyone back at my pit pad that was helping out,” he says. Thanks to some last-minute helping hands and hard work, Zach was able to make it back out onto the track in time for his qualifying heat, where he finished in third.
Zach started back out in ninth for his feature, meaning that he would have to fight his way up to the front from mid-pack. After an accident-ridden start of the race, Zach managed to stay out of harm’s way and make his way up to the front of the pack by lap 11, where he joined a 3-way battle for the top spot. By lap 20, he had made his way to the inside of the top car, challenging him for the coveted first place position on the track with just ten laps to go. He succeeded on lap 22, eventually pulling away with the victory. After he received his winning checkered flag and performed his victory lap around the speedway, Zach was met by his family, friends and crew that have worked tirelessly on his car all season in Victory Lane. From his point of view, he says, “As soon as we got out into the clean air, I could really start to relax and get into a groove while the guys behind us battled it out for position.” He was in awe as he exited his car in Victory Lane and waved his checkered flag to the cheering fans in the crowd in front of him behind the flag stand. He immediately hugged all of his family members, relishing in the moment with all of his biggest supporters. In his Victory Lane speech, he was nervous and filled with a million emotions, but he still managed to thank every single sponsor that has helped him along the way. “Most of my thoughts going through my mind were to just keep making sure that I was hitting my marks. When I crossed the finish line, it was a mix of emotions and I was just speechless,” he says. Not only did he take home his first career victory, the win also powered him into a runner-up finish in the point standings.
Zach’s number one goal for the night was to take home a third place trophy in the point standings, but he wound up coming home with so much more to be proud of. “I really had no idea that I’d end up finishing over Dave Cameron and Lewis Anderson to secure the runner-up spot for the championship, especially in only my second year,” he says. Zach says that staying focused and making small adjustments to his driving style helped him excel this year, in addition to trying out new lines on the race track. Although he had a stellar season this year, he still looks to improve on some things next season. “I’d like to be a little more relaxed behind the wheel. Some of my big goals are to win more races and stay consistent throughout the season,” he says. Even when he’s not behind the wheel at Beech Ridge, racing never leaves his mind.
During the off-season, Zach is excited to race vintage snowmobiles during the winter months. He’s also looking to graduate from high school a year early so he can attend school at the University of Northwestern Ohio next year, which is United States’ premier school to study Auto Performance. He will also spend his winter preparing the race car for opening day at Beech Ridge next season, which will take place around Memorial Day.
Although his racing season at Beech Ridge is over, Zach is thinking about racing in the “Strictly Shoot-Out” at Wiscasset Speedway on September 30th. He will be back at Beech Ridge on September 17th for the PASS race weekend and up at Oxford Plains Speedway on October 14th, so there is still plenty of time to cheer on Zach Nicholson and the entire Nicholson Racing Crew before the complete racing season is over!