Rookie Profile: Zach Hampton
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5/15/2024

5/15/2024

Knoxville Raceway


Rookie Profile: Zach Hampton

by Joanne Cram

410 Rookie contender Zach Hampton is making a zip code change as he continues to pursue his career in sprint car racing. The Plainfield, Indiana twenty-six-year-old has big plans for the upcoming season at Knoxville Raceway.

Zach is no rookie to dirt track racing, starting his career at the ripe age of five in quarter midgets. During his seven years of running quarter midgets, one of the highlights of his career was winning the Battle at the Brickyard when he was just eight years old. Zach remembers that being important, because his car was sponsored in part by the foundation called Rupert’s Kids. Rupert was a famous participant on the reality TV show, Survivor, and Zach’s car sponsor had joined forces to get the quarter midget wrapped in the foundation colors.

After his years in quarter midgets, Zach moved into the 600-winged micro sprints where he raced from the ages of twelve to sixteen. He had a few wins during those years and covered a lot of Indiana tracks.

When Zach was fifteen, he moved into the midget class, racing with POWRi and USAC for a couple of seasons. Zach jokes that it was a tough time to be in a USAC midget, with competitors like Bryan Clauson, Rico Abreu, Christopher Bell, and Kyle Larson competing against him in each race. Those seasons he learned and grew as a driver.

When asked why he wanted to move into sprint cars, Zach said that “sprint cars were always the top level as a kid you thought of getting to in dirt track racing. It is the highest level of competition for dirt track racing. I always wanted to be a professional sprint car driver, and that was always my goal when I was growing up.”

And Zach has made those dreams come true. His first sprint car race was in 2015, right after the midget racing concluded. He was offered a 305 ride in his home state of Indiana where he raced a handful of times. The ride didn’t work out quite as he had planned however, and the family racing operation had mostly been sold off by this time. Zach was determined to continue racing, so he stepped away from his full-time racing dreams after graduating high school to work full time as an electrical apprentice and save up some money to get the family operation back under way. During these years, he ran a few midget and 360 races here and there. Then in 2019, Zach bought his first chassis, waiting on an engine to purchase next. With the help of his dad, Scott, Zach finally got an engine just before the 2019 Knoxville Nationals. That Monday before, Zach put the car together at home, and with the help of Brian Paulus completing the car when he got it to Knoxville, Zach was able to run his first Knoxville Nationals. Zach is very thankful for Brian’s help in getting his 2019 Nationals car together, because without his help, it could not have happened. As he continued to work towards building the family run team, Zach was able to build up a team with better equipment for the coming seasons.

In 2020 Zach was finally in a position where he could run more races and start to focus on easing back into full time racing. While working full-time, he was able to run twenty-five shows. In 2021, just before Florida, Zach put his apprenticeship on hold and went full time racing, but then his ride fell through for 2022. The family team was ready to go full time racing however, so Zach was able to hit about 50 races in 2022 and 40 races in 2023.

2024 brings Zach into a new era of his sprint car racing career. With Knoxville being such an iconic track to race at, the opportunity to commit to running the season materialized and Zach was ready to take it. Dennis Gainey, local Knoxville car owner and crew chief, has grown his operation over the past couple of seasons. He was looking for a shop manager and had posted publicly that he was actively pursuing someone to work in his shop Monday through Friday. Zach has known Dennis and his good buddy, Jimmy Light for several years, so Zach halfheartedly reached out to Dennis, not knowing if it could be a win-win situation for them both. Over the off-season, Zach had been weighing all of his options; continue racing his family-owned team or try to find another team to drive for. With Zach’s goal to run 25-30 races around the Midwest, making Knoxville his base, this opportunity was ideal. Zach relocated to Knoxville in March and is running his family-owned car with the help of several of his loyal sponsors. When he is not working for Dennis on his operations, Zach will have the time to get his car ready for race action each weekend. “I have always wanted to race a season at Knoxville to get better and run more local races. This opportunity seems to be a great fit so I can race the number of races I want, as well as have a job in racing to pay the bills. This plan gives me the flexibility to race and work and just make it all work. Working for another team that doesn’t need the help on the weekends works great for my schedule and flexibility”.

At this point, Zach’s schedule will be competing weekly in the 410 class at Knoxville Raceway, then he will try to run a few other races where they logistically fit into the schedule. He has already hit a handful of High Limit races and helped on a couple other teams. His goals for the season include finishing with a top 5 in points, 410 Rookie of the Year honors, and at least one win at Knoxville. Zach plans to run more High Limit races as well as Maverick Series races back in Indiana.

Car specs this season for the #35 are Speedway Engine Development and Maxim Chassis. Zach’s support system includes his parents, Monica and Scott, and his golden doodle, Oliver- or Ollie. Sponsors for the 2024 season include Edco General Contractors, DayStar Directional Drilling, Booyah Darts, Horsepower Inc., Team Jack Foundation, Corey Kruseman’s Driving School, Collision Concepts and Quick Race Products.

Follow Zach on Twitter/X @Zach_Hampton35, and you can buy merchandise on his website at www.three5racing.myshopify.com.


Article Credit: Joanne Cram

Submitted By: Eric Arnold

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