Pacific Northwest Team Returns to Turkey Night with High Hopes
Source: AJB MM
Victoria, B.C., Canada (November 23, 2009) Monte Zema Racing with driver Chris Schmelzle will take their Talcore Walls and Ceilings sprint car to the famed USAC Turkey Night Grand Prix to be run Thanksgiving evening, November 26th, hoping to build on their combined previous experiences at this exciting event.
This year will mark the 69th running of the USAC Turkey Night Grand Prix and the Champions list reads like a who's who of open-wheel racing including: Bill Vukovich, Johnny Parsons, Tony Bettenhausen, A. J. Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Jason Leffler.
In 2004 the native of Victoria, B.C., Canada, Schmelzle, driving the Lejeune Performance and Fabrication house car, drove his way to an impressive third-place finish against a stellar field of competitors, including NASCAR Sprint Cup start and previous Turkey Night Champion, Tony Stewart. "We debuted a new car at that event and were really pleased with it throughout the weekend. We went into the main event confident and were able to keep the car under us as the race progressed. We made a great run at the end of the race and if it were another few laps we may have even been able to contend for the win," recalled Schmelzle about the podium finish.
Zema and Schmelzle teamed up to run last year's event and it appeared through the first few practice sessions that they may have a car to compete with. "At an event like this you have to be cautiously optimistic. It is awfully hard for us to run one USAC National event on the year and be as competitive as those that run with this series consistently; it serves as a great measuring stick to see how good you and your team are," commented Schmelzle. After a promising day of practice, the motor on #25 Zema Racing sprinter experienced some gremlins as the team headed into qualifying. After starting the event at the back of the field it appeared that Schmelzle may once again be able to move forward, but experienced a mechanical issue which sent the Lejeune Sprinter to the pits prematurely.
In 2009 Schmelzle focused on his dirt sprint car program campaigning throughout the Northwestern United States at Skagit Speedway and made the trip to the 2009 Knoxville Nationals.
The Zema racing team ran the entire ASA/NSRA Winged Sprint Car series schedule in 2009 with rookie driver Greg Ochs behind the wheel, finishing sixth in the final point standings.
Now Zema and team are looking for a little redemption at this year's event. Schmelzle shared this, "We've run up front at this event before and I think we have a great package with Monte's (Zema) team and equipment and I hope that we can position ourselves to run in the top-5 again. We think we're ready, it should be an exciting week down in California ."
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