Andrew Zimmer’s last year has been spent balancing the needs of a high school senior, preparing for his freshman year of college and switching between karting and late model commitments.
In 2008 Zimmer set out to race for former NASCAR star Trevor Boys in a modified that ran exclusively in Western Canada and jumped into Jack Morse’s Inland Northwest Super Stock Association car all while ramping up for a run at the INSSA Rookie of the Year title.
What’s transpired over the last 12 months has been an eye-opener, Zimmer said.
“My senior year of high school was different and supposed to be the cakewalk that most seniors talk about,” he said. “That was not the case for me. I had classes that started at 7 a.m. and were not done until 2:30 and then went to work.
“When my race season kicked in I started missing school, which meant trying to catch up on homework anytime possible such as breaks, lunch and other classtime. It’s all been worth it as racing is what I’m all about.”
Payoff for his dedication is the 2009 INSSA rookie title, a top-five finish in the chase for the ’09 championship and acceptance to Washington State University where Zimmer is studying electrical and computer engineering.
An unexpected opportunity to continue in karts with a top-flight sponsor added to Zimmer’s busy summer and impending fall.
“Toward the end of the summer I got a new sponsor, Top Kart (an Italian kart manufacturer), which has allowed me to race even more, which I was really happy with,” he said. “In the late model I have raced about a quarter of what I normally did when I was running full time in go-karts. I never really see myself leaving kart racing entirely. It’s a wonderful source of training and it keeps my mental state focused on racing. (Karting) is probably the funnest thing I have ever done.”
As a national karting star Zimmer has built a desire to succeed, but he admits that balancing the last year has been demanding. His season climaxes with a run in the 22nd annual Yakima Speedway Fall Classic this weekend when the Gonzaga Prep graduate will face the likes of Gary Lewis, Garrett Evans and Mike Longton in one of the Northwest’s premier late model races.
Zimmer heads to Yakima with a grounded approach to the weekend.
“All of the big names (entered this weekend) can be intimidating to many people, but to me I know they are going to be fast and I know I am not going to win, so we’re just going to go and try our best with this Alpine Haus Marina Chevrolet, because that is all anyone can do,” he said. “We have to look at the experience in the cars and they (Evans, Lewis) all have many years in the same series while this is my first season in late models.”
Zimmer has familiarized himself with late model stock cars after solely working on go-karts. He admits to having a good teacher in the shop and using his summer to learn the nuances of chassis development and setups.
“Over the summer I spent a lot of time working on the car with my mechanic, TJ Sneva (whose uncle is Indy 500 winner Tom Sneva), and making sure we could make our beast go as fast as it could,” he said. “When our race days came around I was so ecstatic (to compete), everything usually seemed like it was going great, so we just tried our best since this was our (rookie) year.”
National karting events, at which Zimmer has competed against some of the best open-wheel stars in the world, have prepared him for this weekend’s race.
“I expect my competitors to race me clean and I will do the same,” Zimmer said. “When I raced the national scene in karting, I faced the best and beat some of them. It takes practice and seat time and my goal coming into this weekend is to be in the top 10 by the end of the race. That’s a legitimate goal and not far-fetched for this Sneva manufacturing team.”