Sunday, February 14, 2021

ARCA: Brittney Zamora exits early at Daytona in old Sterling Marlin car

PHOTO: @Brittneyz52 on Twitter

by William Soquet Guest Contributor

Brittney Zamora finished last for the first time in her ARCA Menards Series career in Saturday’s Lucas Oil 200 driven by General Tire at Daytona International Speedway when her #30 SQ1 Flex Ford crashed out after completing seven of the race’s 82 laps.

The finish came in Zamora’s first career series start.

The Pacific Northwest is not necessarily known as a hotbed for NASCAR talent. Long passed over for a race by the Cup Series, only a few big names have come out of the region – Kasey Kahne and Greg Biffle come to mind as some of the most recent stars. But the region nonetheless remains a hotbed for grassroots racing, and out of that scene emerged Brittney Zamora. The 21-year-old Zamora took a traditional route up through the racing ranks, starting in go-karts and working up through mini-stocks all the way to late models. She ran the Northwest Super Late Model Series circuit in 2017 and 2018, and also entered NASCAR-sanctioned weekly contests in her home state in 2018, garnering the Rookie of the Year award for Whelen All-American Series competition in Washington.

This success propelled Zamora to a berth in the 2019 Drive For Diversity combine at New Smyrna Speedway. While she did not land with Rev, Bill McAnally Racing picked her up for a full K&N Pro Series West season and a partial K&N Pro Series East season. Despite earning poles at Tucson Speedway and Evergreen Speedway, her best race finish was third and was not renewed after finishing fifth in the point standings. Zamora returned to super late model racing in 2020 and partnered with Rackley Roofing, turning in an 11th-place performance in the prestigious All American 400. The deal to drive for Rette Jones Racing was a one-off and was announced exactly one week before the race. The car she was slated to drive was chassis CGR 005, a Sterling Marlin chassis utilized on plate tracks from 2000 to 2005. The chassis was the subject of a recent YouTube video by nascarman history and LASTCAR’s own Brock Beard.

Despite the fears of some that the car count would be closer to last season’s 21-entry Talladega race, 36 cars appeared on the initial entry list. Two of these teams later withdrew: Chuck Buchanan Jr.’s car was damaged in a qualifying crash at New Smyrna before the ARCA East race on Monday and was not able to be repaired, and a Cody Efaw-backed entry never named a driver.

Of the 34 drivers that remained, a handful of interesting stories popped out. Former Winston Cup racer Rich Bickle teamed up with Empire Racing for one final shot at Daytona before he retires from racing at the end of 2021. New York modified racer Andy Jankowiak put most of his money into a superspeedway chassis and made it competitive with the help of former ARCA teams Ken Schrader Racing and Andy Seuss Racing. Derrick Lancaster returned to Daytona with his own team after suffering a skull fracture at Kingsport in the middle of last season. Greg Van Alst returned to ARCA for the first time in 20 years, and Toni Briedinger saw her first ARCA action since 2018 in a Young’s Motorsports entry. Kyle Sieg and Jason Kitzmiller returned for partial schedules. Tim Richmond and Alex Clubb formed a new team and will split driving duties this year; Richmond took the wheel at Daytona. 

All 34 cars took a time in practice. Bringing up the rear was longtime Wayne Peterson Racing driver Con Nicolopoulos, driving what some garage personnel pegged as the only legacy engine-powered car in the field. While Nicolopoulos lost seven-tenths of a second from practice to qualifying, he went up in the charts from 34th to 33rd. Anchoring the qualifying lineup was 78-year-old Benny Chastain, who drove the #94 Cram Racing Enterprises car in place of Chris Hacker. 

Coming to the green, one flat black car lagged behind all of the others - the #48 of Owen Smith. Owen Smith was a week-of replacement for longtime underdog Brad Smith, sidelined with a scratched retina. Brad took over crew chiefing duties temporarily. Smith hung back from the lead pack from the start of the race, and remained in last place for the first four laps of the race. Meanwhile, Zamora, who lined up 10th in the inside line on the initial start, sustained front-end damage coming to the green. The driver reported temperature problems by lap three, and the car slid down the leaderboard all the way to last by lap five, presumably when the car was brought to pit road the first time. The #30 machine made seven laps in total before retiring, citing “crash” as the reason out.

Smith was the next entrant out of the contest. His race was done after 17 laps, derailed by fuel pump issues. The Bottom Five was rounded out by Scott Melton, Nick Sanchez and Derek Griffith, all taken out in a Lap 28 accident.

34) #30-Brittney Zamora / 7 laps / accident
33) #48-Owen Smith / 17 laps / fuel pump
32) #69-Scott Melton / 27 laps / accident
31) #2-Nick Sanchez / 27 laps / accident
30) #55-Derek Griffith / 27 laps / accident

1st) Rette Jones Racing (1)

1st) Ford (1)


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