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Championship year for young driver
by Dan McGee - Special to the Tribune
Dec 02, 2013 | 1298 views | 1 1 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by Dan McGee - Zach Cail accepts his championship jacket, trophy and other awards during Rattlesnake Raceway's awards banquet. He finished the year winning two track and the state championships.
Tribune photo by Dan McGee - Zach Cail accepts his championship jacket, trophy and other awards during Rattlesnake Raceway's awards banquet. He finished the year winning two track and the state championships.
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Tribune photo by Dan McGee - Zach Cail capped his championship year by winning the Sport Mod division at the annual Dirt Track Championships at Rattlesnake Raceway. Here he is taking a victory lap after winning Sunday's race.
Tribune photo by Dan McGee - Zach Cail capped his championship year by winning the Sport Mod division at the annual Dirt Track Championships at Rattlesnake Raceway. Here he is taking a victory lap after winning Sunday's race.
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FALLON - Winning a championship is an illusive dream for most racers and earning three in one year is almost unheard of. It's even more amazing when the driver has just moved into a new class.

This past year, 16-year-old Zach Cail, a junior at Churchill County High School, accomplished that feat. He's one of the graduates from the Northern Nevada Outlaw Kart program at Rattlesnake Raceway.

"I've always been interested in racing and my uncle Tony, from C&F Fabrication, dropped a little box stock kart off when I was 10-years-old," he said. "And the first time in that it just took off from there."

An Outlaw Kart is like a regular go-kart but they have roll cages and wings. Their drivers are strapped into the little machines and competitors range from beginners to adults that race either 250- or 500cc-powered machines.

The karts race on dirt ovals, which is usually a smaller track set inside a larger oval.

Cail's first taste of competition came at Lovelock Speedway Kart Track. He, like other rookies, found his first race to be an eye-opening experience.

"I was scared and knew it was going to be a lot," he said. "But I ended up winning my first ever race in my box stock so it turned out to be a good surprise."

Apparently racing agreed with him as he ended the season second in the points. By the time he was 15, Cail was driving a 250cc Outlaw Kart.

In 2012, he graduated from the karts and began to race a Sport Mod.

Going from a kart to car that has an adjustable suspension, larger tires and a lot more power can be a daunting challenge.

"Moving into this I was scared, it was a big change from being in a kart with no suspension to being in a big car," he said.

Before tracks open, their seasons they usually have at least one weekend, called Play Days, where drivers can test and tune their machines. And it's a good place for rookies to start getting their feet wet.

"It really didn't turn out well," he said. "Here in Fallon I hit the wall twice and in Lovelock, it was my first time in the car, I just kept attempting to speed up little by little. I ended up spinning out onto the infield and destroying the whole left side of the car."

After those two experiences it was time to get on the track and face real competition.

"It was a lot more than I really expected but I actually won my first ever heat race starting from the front," he said. "I came second in my first ever main but I felt really, really out of control with the car because I was still trying to figure out how to do it."

Part of the transition any driver goes through with a new car is learning what does at speed and how to handle it.

"The biggest change is that when you're coming into a corner you can feel the car move. While in the kart it just bounces and it's a rough ride," he said. "In the car you're sliding into the corner then it hikes up and it's nice and smooth."

And the amount of effort it takes to steer a kart or the modified is very different.

"To be honest in the car I have power steering but the kart is a lot harder because you're right there and you turn so much in those karts. You're turning left and right the whole time you're on the track," he said.

During this past season he's raced at Winnemucca once, but did most of the season at Lovelock Speedway and Rattlesnake Raceway in Fallon.

"My first ever race her at Fallon turned out really well as I won the heat race and got second in the main," he said. "In my first ever race at Lovelock I won my heat and my main there. And then I had won every main and heat in Lovelock until about four races ago during the two-day, the money show.

"But this car has been awesome, I mean the season has been a lot better than I expected winning three championships."

When the year's racing ended he won the championship in Lovelock as well as earning Rookie of the Year honors, and repeated this feat at Rattlesnake Raceway. He's also ranked 12th in national points as well as earning the Nevada IMCA Northern Sport Mod championship.

At Fallon, the cars are called B Mods since they run with the older Rat Mods but everywhere else are IMCA Northern Sport Mods.

Cail explained he's very grateful for the help he's gotten from his sponsors.

"The biggest sponsor has got to be my parents, my step-dad Brett Wilkins and my mother Diana Wilkins. They are the people that get me to the racetrack," he said.

"Those are the main people, and everybody else I've got to thank them too," he sad.

He also is aware those youngsters still racing Outlaw Karts are looking up at him.

"When I see people looking up to me, it makes me feel I need to be a bigger person. I looked up to people that were nice, calm and cool so now I've got to do that with the people that look up to me," he said.

And like other young drivers, he too has a hero and wants to follow that person's tire tracks.

"Kyle Larson, he started out in box stock karts just like me in Red Bluff, Calif. and now he's in NASCAR. That's who I look up to. He's put a big impact in my life as I was racing with him in California so maybe we can take the same route," he said.

Although Cail knows he first must finish high school, there's a plan he has in mind.

"I want to stay in the Sport Mod for one more year. To be honest, getting into an injected 360, running Placerville and getting people to notice me would be the next step," he said. "After that hopefully to take off to the 410s and after that maybe someone would want to pick me up in NASCAR."

Like Larson, his goal is to start driving sprint cars as he moves up the ranks. While sometime in the future he knows moving may be an necessary because, like he said, "you never really see people get noticed in Nevada."

Except for a few times in Las Vegas our state doesn't have much in the way of major league racing. To be noticed one has to compete where the major teams are racing.

But right now Cail is focused on defending his championships as he knows a career in motor sports has to be done in baby steps, at least for now. But after high school he intends to do whatever is necessary to forward his career.

This winter he'll be savoring those titles and getting ready for the 2014 season.

"I'm thankful for all that and that's why I say I'm probably the luckiest kid around as I've had a chance to drive an amazing race car," he said.

OTHER RACING NEWS

• If it's not too cold this weekend, Exit 28 will once again have practice sessions from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

• When the final standings in the National Hare and Hound series were announced four riders that have raced, or race with, MRANN, scored class championships.

They are: Irving Powers in 250cc Open-A, Levi Hutchings in 201-250cc A, Dan Caparelli in 30+A and former VCGP amateur day winner and Brody Honea, who won the 251cc Open B division.
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Larry & Merilyn
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December 06, 2013
Way to go Zach,

We'll be looking for you in Placerville...
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