Zane Qualifies at E-Town in Pro Stock Debut
Pro Stock newcomer Lee Zane is on track to exceed expectations in his debut as the driver of the MZ Motorsports Pro Stock Pontiac GXP at the 44th annual Toyota NHRA Summernationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown.
Zane, a two-time Lucas Oil Series national champion, qualified in the No. 16 position and earned a ticket to race on Sunday against one of the heavy-hitters of the sport, No. 1 qualifier Mike Edwards.
The first qualifying run amounted to what Zane referred to as a “rookie mistake.” when he pulled into the burnout box, he didn’t have the fuel pumps on and the car lost power. The fumble ate up valuable time, and Zane rushed through the burnout so as not to hold up the competitor in the other lane.
“I got myself rushed, and then we probably had the clutch loaded a little too much, and it really shook hard,” said Zane, of Perry Hall, Md. “I tried to pull second gear, and there was just nothing there. There was so much vibration, and I’m not sure if it was just me being a sissy with the shifter or what, but something wasn’t working.”
On the second run, Zane started the burnout but the car again began to lose power. This time, it was due to a dropped valve. The run was aborted, and Zane was left on the outside looking in with on two qualifying sessions left to make it into the field.
“I felt some pressure when I woke up the next day,” said Zane, who is backed by partners Kevin and Mary McHugh. “But I also felt confident that we could do this. We put a new motor in the night before, and came out early in the morning to finish things up. We had some drama that required [more work than anticipated], but the guys got on it – Tom Martino, Bob Benza, Bob Cave, they all just really jumped on it. My crew did everything they needed to so that when the engine was ready, we just had to put everything together and get it fired up.”
The morning was a blur as the team warmed up the car, hurried to the scales, came back and went straight to the staging lanes for the third session of qualifying. The hustle paid off as Zane made his first A to B run in his MZ Motorsports/Coppermine Applicators Pontiac GXP and lit the scoreboard with a career best 6.807 at 203.16 mph that bumped him into the field in the No. 16 spot.
The drama wasn’t quite over, though.
“On that run, we ended up burning a piston,” said Zane. “We were down a hole and basically went 6.80 on seven cylinders. Then it was a good news/bad news situation: we were No. 16, but we had to sit and watch. There was nothing we could do about it. The motor had to go back to the shop.”
Zane withdrew from the fourth qualifier and watched his fate fall into the hands of his competitors. Kenny Delco and Zane’s friend, John Gaydosh, were the only two drivers who could bump him out of the field. Delco did not make it down the track, and it came down to Gaydosh, a fellow Maryland-based competitor who had given Zane the opportunity to license and compete in Pro Stock for the first time five years ago in his own car at the Englishtown facility.
“It was difficult because John Gaydosh is the one who has been pushing me for these past five years to really continue working towards this goal,” said Zane. “I want to see him qualify almost as much as I want to get in, and he feels the same way about me. He’s been a great supporter through this, and it was tough to watch him not get down the track. It was still a very exciting moment for us, though, and it was great to have everyone there. It means a lot to qualify for Pro Stock at the track where I watched my uncle and brother race, and really, it’s where I decided at 13 years old that I wanted to do this. It’s very special.”
The folks at MB Race Engines will be working through the night to ensure that Zane has a fresh powerplant for his first raceday start in the competitive category.
“This is a dream come true, and I’m happy just to qualify, but I’m here to race, too,” said Zane. “I don’t get intimidated, and I just want to go out there and drive the car the best I can. We’ve got a tough competitor in Edwards, a world champion, and he’s laying down numbers everywhere he goes – but we’re here. I get to experience this, and whatever the outcome, I’m going to be fine with it. No matter what, hey, I raced on Sunday at Englishtown.”
(Photo courtesy Lee Zane/Facebook)