It was a unique weekend for round 9 of the GNCC circuit this past Saturday, as everyone made the trip to the famous Snowshoe Mountain Resort in West Virginia. Team rider Zac Zakowski had an astonishing race to end on as we head into summer break. Zac took the holeshot on the Grand Prix style start and would hold onto the lead for the entire first lap. After battling fiercely all day on the very treacherous West Virginia track, swapping for the lead multiple times during the day, Zac would finish a close 5 seconds behind first place to bring home the silver and a successful 5th overall
Zac Zakowski: Well to start off, as some of you may already know, Snowshoe is by far my favorite racetrack on the circuit. So needless to say, I may have been a little excited heading into this one. I had one of my best overall finishes last year in my rookie season at this track and almost had my first win. To me, even though I live in Wisconsin, this is my "home track." What's so special about this track you may ask? Well for starters the race is on top of a beautiful mountain at around 4000ft elevation. Snowshoe Resort is this huge village all on its own on the mountain. There is everything at this track! You can even ride a chair lift up and down the mountain and watch the race!
Ok I'm going a bit off topic here. I'd say the neatest thing about this race is the starting style. We start on the main road in the town, yes on pavement. It's a running engine start with five guys on a line. It's quite a rush starting on the pavement, knowing that if you fall off its really going to hurt. Once you're in the woods this track is super fast. Oh, and did I mention its really dangerous too? There are tons of downhill kickers everywhere, blind uphill jumps, ruts, and rocks, everything that makes a race fun. Oh, I think I hear the 10-second call...
As we kept creeping up to that start line with our engines running I knew it was going to be a good day. My adrenalin was pumping and I was more ready for this race then any other. I was out for one thing and one thing only, that win. We got closer and closer to the line. Watching rows before us take off I could feel my body getting ready. When we hit that line it was as though my heart quit pounding for a second. I saw that flag fly as I cracked the throttle and gave my Janssen Motorsports powered Can-am Outlander 800r everything that she had. I pulled a couple of bike lengths on everyone as I successfully took the holeshot. I slid around the first couple turns, enjoying the pavement as much as I could before hitting the dirt.
I flew down the first couple of straights wide-open, never lifting, just hearing my engine breathe through the FrogzSkin intake between my knees. We crossed the road and headed down down down the mountain into the dangerous lower half. I pulled a small lead in the next 7 miles or so while trying to stay smooth. Our Zakowski Motorsports differential braces were definitely doing their job at this track, as I endlessly landed on the gas over kickers. Luckily, I had my Bopp A-arms, as I was able to float through high-speed corners with ease. I crossed the finish line in first and began my second lap. As we headed back down the mountain I took a path behind a sport quad, which decided to get stuck, and I got passed for 1st. After getting untangled I was back on my feat and hunting down 1st.
I passed Buckhannon after the finish of lap 2 as he stopped for a pit. I decided I might as well pit for some fuel and goggles at this point. I was either going to come out of the pit right in front of him or right behind him so we might as well do it now. I got goggles and a sip of fuel and was off, pulling out right behind him. At this point I knew it was going to be a long haul to the end. We caught up to the limited class riders and began our journey as a giant mob of 6 utilities flying through the woods. I was right on Buckhannon's tail for the next 10 miles that is until the bottlenecks began.
We came up to a huge bottleneck that went on forever on the only path back up the mountain. We clawed our way past bikes trying to get up the hill past stuck bikes. For those of you that don't know, bottlenecks are terrible. It consisted of smashing into and driving over each other, pushing, and shoving your way out of the bottleneck. Thank God I have my All Terrain Research tie rods and chassis braces otherwise I would still be sitting on that hill. After awhile of doing all this we made it to the top and were back on our way. In the craziness of it all I fell a couple of bikes behind 1st place. When we reached the top of the mountain I knew I had my work cut out for me to get back up into contention.
I picked up my pace and began picking off people left and right. After starting the final lap I caught up to him. I was right on Bryan's tail ready to make a move. Unfortunately, there was not much room to make a pass in the next 5 miles or so. We both set our bikes into cruise control and trucked on. Until, we got back to the same bottleneck. Bryan and I searched in panic for an alternate line to get around the bottleneck. We drove all over looking around but there was nowhere else to go besides up where everyone was sitting. I watched Bryan head up the hill through people and I followed. I wasn't about to let him get away from me. I saw a path between a couple of bikes and I took it, positioning myself in 1st. We were still sitting there though, waiting for the bottleneck to clear out.
There were people sitting there with their engines off chatting with each other. One guy said that he was sitting there for 25 minutes. After sitting for at least 7 minutes I decided, in desperation, to blaze my own trail up the hill through the parked quads. There was a small opening to the right where I would have to teeter all the way up the hill. I decided to go for it. I squeezed in-between dozens of quads almost tipping over the entire way up. I got half way and there were quads sitting there. I hooted and hollered and pushed my way through doing everything I could. I could have sworn I was about to die a couple of times but finally I made it!
I hit the nitrous, so to speak, giving it everything I had. I had about 4 miles left to hold onto this lead. We got to a huge uphill climb that lasted forever. I got hung up behind a slow rider and Bryan took a quick line to the left and passed 3 of us. When we got to the top I laced on it trying to get by the lappers between us. We had around 3 miles left at this point. We both knew it was going to come down to this. I struggled getting by the lappers for a bit but then got the job done. We had about one mile left now with him in my sites. I gave it everything I had but came up slightly short. I crossed the line in 2nd, just 5 seconds back, with a 5th overall finish.
I'm not going to lie, I was a little disappointed with not getting the win but hey, that was one of the most fun races to date! Not to mention it only makes me hungrier for a win. Eventually my belly has to get full, right? All in all it was a great weekend for Zakowski Motorsports and I. We came home with a great in-class finish and a top 5 overall. I am currently sitting in 3rd for points, only 3 points out of 2nd, and ranked 6th. This marks the end of the first half of the season for us. I will be doing select IATVHSS races along with some locals and AMA rounds. I also will be hosting a team at the 3rd annual Heartland 10 Hour Challenge with the team soon to be announced. Aside from racing I will be doing some promotional events for sponsors and race circuits. Ill keep you informed throughout the summer! And always remember to keep it pinched!