March 8, 2013 3:00:20 AM
This unseasonably cold weather is killing Bobby Zaiontz's sinuses.
If Zaiontz thinks the temperatures this week are bad, just imagine how he and his racing peers would have felt last week if they ventured out into the night for the fourth-annual United Sprint Car Series "Frostbuster 250" at Magnolia Motor Speedway in Columbus.
Fortunately for the drivers and the fans, USCS founder and President Pete Walton decided early enough in the week to call the action scheduled for March 1-2 off. The decision late Monday night gave Walton and the racers plenty of time to get the word out about the decision to reschedule the event for today and Saturday.
The event will feature the USCS Outlaw Thunder Tour winged Sprint Cars, Super Late Models, Nesmith Dirt Late Models, USCS Modifieds vs. Mississippi Modified Challenge Series, USCS 600 mini sprints, Street Stock, and Mini Stocks in 250 laps of Championship main events.
Today, pits will open at 3 p.m. There will be a drivers' meeting at 6 p.m. Racing will begin at 7:30 p.m. Super Late Models will have an open practice tonight, and three rounds will be guaranteed.
On Saturday, pits will open at 3 p.m. There will be a drivers' meeting at 5 p.m. Racing will begin at 6 p.m.
For Walton, temperatures today and Saturday slated for the 60s and 70s are much more to his liking. He hopes fans will take advantage of the warmer weather to come out and support the season's opening race.
"It seems like we're usually pretty luck with the weather, but last weekend we weren't," Walton said. "The weather was about 15 degrees below the averages for the year, which was pretty unusual. We weren't expecting it to be 15 degrees below average, and it snowed."
Zaiontz was one the drivers who saw it snow. Fortunately, Zaiontz, who lives in Columbus, doesn't have to travel a long distance for the make-up dates for the series 2013 debut. Walton said the decision to move the first race also worked out for a handful of drivers, including Columbus, Johnny Stokes. Walton said Stokes told him he wasn't ready to start the season and that an extra week of preparation was going to help him get his cars ready so he could compete this weekend.
Zaiontz also will be on hand both days to compete. Last season, Zaiontz posted 18 feature victories in 11 states to repeat as the USCS 600 Sprint Car Series national champion. He also earned the USCS Iron Man Award for completing every lap on the lead lap. Aside from two seventh-place finishes, Zaiontz, who also won the Mid-South and Southern titles, finished in the top five in all of his races.
"That is pretty unbelievable," Zaiontz said. "Most people have a DNF (Did Not Finish) or a wreck, but to stay in the top five all year speaks to our consistency."
Zaiontz attributes his consistency the past two seasons to solid teamwork, which includes the work his wife, Genise, and his crew chief, Curt Schumacher, who has been with him for eight years, invest in helping him prepare each week.
Zaiontz also credits his sponsors -- Dick and Joanne Leike owners of Crye-Leike Realty, PMP Chassis, Competition Suspension, DMI Machine Inc., and Hero Graphics Memphis, Tenn., for their support in helping to keep him working at his "hobby."
"The last two years have been my most consistent two years in a row," Zaiontz said. "The results in 2011 were the same as last year's result. We had 16 or 17 feature wins."
Zaiontz said he isn't doing anything different except concentrating more on his racing and dedicating himself to it more than he did in previous years.
"If you're doing it as a hobby, that is one thing," Zaiontz said. "But if you're being serious about it, it is another. I am treating it a lot more seriously and trying to take care of my equipment."
Zaiontz said he has made one new car and has another one that is approximately six weeks from being completed. Those vehicles will replace the cars Zaiontz drove to multiple victories and a handful of championships last season.
Zaiontz's concentration to detail is what has helped him remain one of the circuit's top drivers. Walton said Zaiontz is a veteran driver who has connections and uses top-notch equipment. He said the combination has proven to be tough to bet.
"He knows how to maintain the top equipment and he works really hard at it," Walton said. "He does a lot of the hard work himself, and he travels all over. He just loves racing, and he is a good guy."
Zaiontz said the maintenance of that equipment is paramount. He said preparation for the following week's event typically starts Sunday after he returns home and gets a little rest. He credits his wife and Schumacher for being able to get work while he rests and joins the them for the first steps to get the team back on the track. The tweaking and checking and re-checking will go on through the middle of the week before the teams have to pack everything up and head off to the race site.
"We pretty much have always followed that schedule, but we have just stepped up the plate more the past two years," Zaiontz said. "We have gotten more involved. We said it we're going to run for a national title let's run for a national title instead of racing for a weekly basis. We have taken it a lot more seriously and poured a lot into it."
Zaiontz said he couldn't drive so well if not for his wife, Schumacher, and his sponsors for keeping him behind the wheel with high-performing equipment.
With such a good support from his team and the best equipment he can find, Zaiontz, like many drivers, has to battle the mental part of the driving to keep his edge. He said that is always a challenge no matter where he is racing.
"Every lap at every race track I am telling myself not to overdrive the car," Zaiontz said. "I try not to overthink myself and do what I know and keep it simple. Honestly, it is repetition over and over and over. I am trying to do the same thing every lap, and that is every day in life, too."
Now that the checklists have been marked and double- and triple checked, Zaiontz is set to get out on the track and make up for lost time by heating things up.
NOTE: Walton expects a better showing -- possibly 150 cars -- this week for the warmer temperatures. He said drivers are expected to be on hand from Illinois, Georgia, North Carolina, and many others. ... For the K&N Filters USCS Mods vs Mississippi Modified Challenge Series on Friday night, there will be $700 to win and $100 for Mod fast time. On Saturday for the USCS vs. MMCS Mods, there will be $1000 to win. There also will be $100 to win K&N Filters USCS MOD Power Dash and a $100 bonus to win Saturday A-Main "Topless." ... The Super Late Models on Saturday will have a $1,2000 payoff to win. ... The payoff for the Nesmith Dirt Late Models will be $700 to win. A-Main pays $800 to win if 30 or more cars. It will be a $1,000 payoff if there are 35 or more cars enter and start qualifying. ... For the Street Stocks, there will be a $400 to win payoff, and $500 to win if 30 or more cars enter and start heats. ... The Mini Stock will have a $250 payoff to win. It will be $300 to win if 20 or more cars enter and start the heats.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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