Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Interview with Todd Zinn
Today i have the pleasure of interviewing Todd Zinn. Todd is a driver in the very competitive 410 division in central PA. Besides being a driver at Lncoln Speedway and Williams Grove Speedway, he is also a 4th grade teacher at Lewistown Elementary School. Todd took a moment out of his very hectic schedule to sit down with Central PA Racing Scene and discuss his racing carrier from how he got into the sport, his thoughts on running wingless with USAC for the first time, and what it is like for a driver to compete on a small budget with the top dollar teams here in central pa.
When did you start going to the races as a child ?
Todd - I’ve been going to the races as long as I can remember.
What are your earliest memories of the races ?
Todd - My earliest and greatest memories are going with my grandfather and father to watch my favorite, Bobby Allen.
When did you decide to get into the sport,and how did you go about
Todd - I remember mentioning that I would someday have a sprint car to my dad. He never believed it would happen which simply increased my determination to do it. I started saving money and working on cars whenever possible to learn. After 2 years I saved enough to buy a rolling chassis. This car sat in our garage for 2 years until I saved enough to buy a motor to go with it.
You helped Todd Allen for a few years as a crew member, what was that like?
Todd - Todd Allen is an engineer and the nephew of Bobby Allen. Those 2 facts make it almost impossible to not learn something about racing. The experience of being around that famous garage and that racing family was unbelievably fun and educational.
Did you enjoy the crew member side of racing ?
Todd - t was enjoyable. While I prefer working on my own car it gave me some sort of knowledge and experience to build on.
What year and where did you make your debut ?
Todd - 2001? I believe it was at Susquehanna. It went fine. I stayed out of trouble and finished 12th.
You finished in the top 10 in points at Susquehanna speedway. How much of a learning experience was it racing with the top teams week every week?
Todd - It was fun trying to race every week but also has some negatives. On my budget I could only afford to run 1 time a week so was often forced to only run there instead of having the option of going to other tracks. It was also inconvenient during possible rain situations when you feel you need to go “just in case”. Extra money was spent in gas and car washes during eventual rain outs when I may have otherwise chosen to stay home and race elsewhere another day. I will not try to run anywhere on a weekly basis again unless there is a financial ability or benefit to doing so.
You made a trip to western Ohio and western pa that first season. How did the trip go ?
Todd - My dad referred to it as the “most fun” he’s ever had. We went with Todd Allen. It was a blast racing at 3 different places in 3 straight nights and working on the car in parking lots. The tracks treated us great and were very supportive of us.
In 2005 you took a big step and ran the Knoxville nationals. How was the trip?
Todd - Tremendous fun. Just to roll by the Hall of Fame is a dream come true. Unfortunately a drive line problem made it a short week so I did not get to run on the final night but I hope to someday go back.
How important are sponsors to a team like yourself ?
Todd - While I still foot 90% of the bill myself I appreciate every little bit of help that I receive. It is wonderful to have the support of friends and fans.
How hard is being an owner/driver ?
Todd - Unfortunately, it is difficult. When you have such a tight budget you cannot take the chances that you need to in this sport. There are many times I know I can pass a car but a slight bobble or swerve by the other vehicle makes me hesitate. The top guys don’t have that hesitation. They just go. But that is hard to do when you know an incident could sideline you for quite a while.
You also cannot race every week. The learning curve for running 40-90 races over a season is way steeper than only racing 15-20 times over that time period. This smaller amount of races also makes it more difficult to get sponsors. It’s really a catch 22 situation. Not enough money to race weekly, not enough exposure to attract sponsorship.
In 2007 you debuted a new paint scheme. who designed it and how did it come about ?
Todd - It was designed by Martin Designs in conjunction with Rucker Computer Solutions in order to show off their work at the Atlantic City Motorsports Show.
You won best appearing car at Dirt Trackin show at the 2007 Dirt Trackin’ Show. What did that mean to the team ?
Todd - It was another neat experience to be able to reward Martin Designs for their help.
This past season you ran your first wingless race. how was that experience running with USAC ?
Todd - It was the most fun I’ve had in the car. Without the wing the motor was so much less important. It really equalized the cars and made the car’s set-up and the driver much more important.
What is the major difference running without the wing ?
Todd - The car just reacts completely different in every way.
Do you plan on running any USAC races in 2008 ?
Todd - Williams Grove and Hagerstown.
Why do you think more local teams choose not to run with USAC when they come to our area ?
Todd - I don’t know. In many cases it’s because of a conflict with their usual track. Those races that didn’t conflict were through the week which also makes it difficult on people and crews that work at other jobs.
Who all helps out on the car ?
Todd - My main help is from Ryan Wolf (a friend of mine) and my father when needed.
How about your sponsors ?
Todd - My main sponsor is Andrew Rucker of Rucker Computer Solutions. I also have support from Sea Bass Chilli and R&B Wooden Treasures.
Wow can fans and potential sponsors contact you ?
Todd - Through my web-site (www.toddzinn.com), Myspace account(http://www.myspace.com/23sprint ) , the Williams Grove Message Board, or just stopping me at the races.
What are your hobbies out side of racing ?
Todd - Lifting weights, watching other sports, and playing with my dogs.
What are your thoughts on the tire rule that you had in 2007 ?
Todd - As a lower budget team that never has new tires the rules don’t help me that much. The 1 tire a week rule makes it more difficult to get quality used tires from other teams that aren’t already completely used up. The Hoosier rule is also detrimental. I used to be able to occasionally get new tires from other manufacturers for a discounted price because they were a “track tire” or for some other reason. Now I am unable to do so and forced to pay what Hoosier wants for a tire without the ability to do some “comparative shopping”.
How do you feel about passing points being used in the heat races instead of the regular points handicapping ?
Todd - As a fan and competitor I like the handicapping. It’s fun watching the best in the business have to come from the back and see new faces get their shot in the front.
This past season we lost Billy Kimmel in a racing accident at Williams Grove. How do you as a driver put that out of your mind when you are strapping into the car ?
Todd - To be honest you don’t think about it in the car. At the garage you make everything as safe as possible and go out and do your best.
How hard is it for a driver to see some thing like that happen to a fellow competitor and friend, then strap into the car and race ?
Todd - It makes you wonder what your friends and relatives think when you’re out on the track and the effect it has on them. I want to do this more than anything so the risk is an afterthought. But for those close to you…it’s hard to say.
How did you get your nickname "The Amish Outlaw"
Todd - A sponsor pictured an Amish driver when he first heard my last name. Somehow this misconception evolved.
(first thing that pops into your head)
1. Fred Rhamer- RESPECT
2. your father- My hero
3. your wife- Very patient
4. Susquhanna Speedway- Great idea that somehow turned bad
5. Lincoln Speedway- Great close quarters racing
6. Williams Grove Speedway- speed
7. message boards- the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly depending on the poster
8. the fans- fun to be around
9. Bobby Allen- Racing idol
11. Billy Kimmel- passed on while living his dream
13. chili cook off- Great fans supporting this great sport
14. Knoxville- until next time…
15. Todd Zinn- determined
A big thank you to Todd Zinn for sitting down for this interview. Good luck to Todd this year and if you ever see Todd at the track make sure to stop him and say hi, as i don't think you will find a nicer guy in the pits.