By Scott Lockwood
Florida Short Track Report.com
If you were at New Smyrna Speedway a week ago for that Saturday’s racing action, your eyes weren’t fooling you if it looked like a very young driver climbing out of the car in victory lane after the limited late model feature.
That young driver was 15 year-old Zach Donatti, who was celebrating his second win of the season.
Donatti is actually in his second year of racing a limited late model. He got his start in racing when NASCAR star Mark Martin built the quarter-midget track inside the half-mile speedway. After a rough first season filled with numerous crashes, Donatti finally got his footing in the second year when he got a couple of feature wins and quickly moved up to the junior novice level.
A second place finish in the points moved him up to the Junior Honda division for his third season. He won nearly every race that season and took the division championship. From there Donatti moved into the Senior Honda group, where he would finish second in points, and finish his time on the small track with a championship in the Light GX-160 class.
Looking for a bigger challenge, Donatti moved to the bigger oval and took part in several Pro-Truck races. Running a limited schedule, he would get two top-five finishes before getting into a late model. He adapted to that car very quickly, as evidenced by a third-place finish in his very first race.
The next season, Donatti ran in Speedweeks for the first time and finished ninth in the points. When the regular racing season started at New Smyrna started, Donatti got off to a rough start as crashes took him out of the first three races and mechanical failures hurt him in other races. On one of the first nights he was able to keep the car together, he found himself sitting in victory lane.
“It felt awesome because of the way the season started,” Donatti said. “Once we finally didn’t get wrecked and the car stayed together, it felt good.”
This season, Donatti was wrecked by another car before the green flag even flew for the first race of the year. After another bad break in his second race, Donatti dominated last Saturday as he built up a 15 car-length lead and led all 30 laps of the feature for his second win. He is hopeful the win will spring him on to bigger things the rest of the year.
“We definitely want to come back and win the next race,” Donatti said. “We’d like to consistently get top-two or top-three finishes for the rest of the year and win the championship.”
Donatti already has a super late model, which he has ran once already and finished seventh in the race. He has plans to run it a couple of more times this season and will attempt the Governor’s Cup 200 at New Smyrna on Nov. 19 and 20. He also might try and run the Snowflake 100 at 5 Flags Speedway in Pensecola in December. He’ll also run the car full-time at the 2011 Speedweeks at New Smyrna.
“My long-term goal is to get the super late model going, eventually get into ARCA and see if I can get into one of NASCAR’s top three series,” said Donatti, who recently became part of the Ford Racing family through Gary Yeomans Ford in Daytona Beach. “I love working on the car during the week, hanging out with the crew at the shop, hanging out with all the people I get to see on Saturdays and meeting the fans. It’s been a great career so far and I hope it continues.”