Zack Ponder is a familiar face in the youth ranks of GNCC Racing. Growing up racing the series, Zack has already gained quite the following. We caught up with Zack to talk about his 2013 season, and much more.
GNCCRacing.com: How's everything going today?
Zack Ponder: It’s been good. With all the rain we been getting, I’ve just been hanging out with some of my friends from school and spent the past couple of weeks recuperating from Snowshoe. Had a pretty bad last lap crash that knocked me a little coo-coo, but I’m all good now.
Are you ready to get back to racing?
I hated to see the summer break come, but I guess it gives us time to heal up, not to mention fix some things on the Yamaha 85 and get it ready for those last 4 very important races. Oh, and I’m sure Dad and Sonny could use a little time to catch up on some rest. I sleep, they drive, then we get home at 3 to 4 am, I sleep more and they are up at 6:30 am and off to work. I’d say us racers have it pretty good (laughs)
So tell everyone how cool your off weekend before Snowshoe was.
The weekend before Snowshoe, myself, Jared Bolton who we call Mr. Awesome, Corey McDonald, Miss Jesi Stracham, Ricky Russell and his better half Jenah Barlow went to Carowinds. It’s pretty cool to have the older guys and ladies not mind a 13 year old kid tagging along. That’s what is so great about our sport, no matter if you’re a youth rider or a fan, you’re always included and not pushed away. Just one big family, no matter the color of the bike.
The roller coasters are kind of like cross training, getting you prepared for all the hills and turns and stuff, right?
I was amazed at how much getting beat around on roller coasters was like racing, especially at Snowshoe. They need to name a Roller coaster after the shoe. (laughs)
That would be epic! So, how did you get started racing?
Well my dad told me if I wanted to ride, I had to learn to ride my bicycle without training wheels. That day we took them off and a week later Santa Clause hooked me up with a bike. My dad works with Ryan Belue’s dad and he told him about an enduro in Charleston S.C. Dad’s best friend, and my mechanic, Sonny Morabito met us down there and I fell a thousand times but I finished and got 4th. We were hooked after that, SETRA, Mideast, whatever we could race, we did. I won a few championships and learned what it would take on and off the track, to be a top off-road racer.
And what brought you into GNCC Racing?
We just decided 7 years ago to head to Florida and see what we could do against the best this sport has to offer. We ended up 4th in the 65 (7-9) class and we knew then that if you want to be the best, then you got to race the best, and the best was in GNCC. Not to mention one year Travis Pastrana was there and if you ever want to know how tuff our sport is, just ask Travis, he said it ain’t that first 30 minute lap, it’s the other 5 laps that our pros are able to keep that same speed for 3 hours, and to me that’s pretty cool that he respects our sport and our pros that much. Nothing like dead engine start and Ricky Towery waving that flag. What a rush!
Couldn’t have said it better myself! What has been your biggest accomplishment so far?
I think every year you’re able to contend in this series is an accomplishment. With hard work, good equipment and some luck, like I had in 2011 on the 65, you’re able to get a championship. So yes that championship by far has been my biggest accomplishment.
How has your 2013 season been going?
It’s been good for my first year in SuperMini. I’ve had a couple wins and some top 3s, so being consistent all year I’ve put myself in position to make a run. I really don’t look at the points, I just try to win every race and Dad fills me in on the points. He says there’s about 4 or 5 that are right there in the hunt, and fortunately I’m one of them!
What do you hope to accomplish through the rest of 2013?
As we all know, winning is what we’re here to do. My goal is a championship and an overall. That’s what I push for. There’s a lot of fast guys in that top 5 every week, so they push me to work and get better.
What's it going to take to get a class championship?
Wins, wins and more wins. I really feel like that’s what it’s going take. There’s 6 or 7 racers that have shown the speed to win so if I want it, I need to win!
What's the competition like in the Super Mini (12-13) class?
Oh, with our youth racers period, I would say our sport is in good shape. We all look at the XC1 and XC2 guys and we want to be them, so we work and work. There’s definitely been some work going on with these racers in this class. Every week it’s like we all make each other better. You can’t be looking for one because 4 or 5 others step up. We all respect each other and are good friends but we are banging out there for each position.
What do you hope to accomplish in the future?
GNCC championship, National Enduro Championship, ISDE gold medal. That’s what my goals are and I have all the parts there to achieve my goal, but it’s up to me to put in the work and time. How cool would it be to have Yamaha on the top step in the 3 biggest championship there are?
Alright, before we wrap this up, who would you like to thank?
God first for this awesome life, family and friends he has blessed me with. Our Soldiers that are protecting our great country so we all are able to chase our dreams. My team, Obermeyer Yamaha/RainesRidingUniversity/OffroadViking.com race team, Yamaha, Fly Racing, GE, YAMALUBE, GYTR, Am-Pro, Yamaha Generators, Kenda Tires, Factory Connection, Accelerade, HBD Graphics, SunStar, Rekluse, FMF, Enduro Engineering, SBS Brakes, Raines Racing, Gaerne, EKS Brand Goggles, Unibiker, CV4, Zip-Ty Racing, Flat Tire Defenders, IMS and Wiseco. Also my wonderful family, Sonny Morabito for believing in me and keeping that YZ rolling. All the Am-Pro Yamaha riders for taking time with me, and Randy Hawkins for the words of wisdom. The Baylors, The Belues and all the families that keep pushing me. Donnie Luce for taking time to read and reply after race reports. Offroad Viking, Daniel, Rich, Brehob, and Master Charlie for giving us great camera work so fans can get even closer. Jason Raines, wow, what an opportunity he has given me. Thanks to The Raineys for their support also. God Bless and tell a Soldier thank you when you see them!