H-L’s Ziebold trying to make her mark in sprint car racing

PHOTO SUBMITTED Kasey Ziebold stands next to her 305 sprint car.

Like many soon-to-be 16-year-olds, Kasey Ziebold is counting down the days to getting her driver’s license.

For those wondering, that happens in a couple weeks.

With a caveat.

“If I remember not to drive it like a sprint car,” Ziebold said.

That may prove challenging.

Ziebold, who’ll be a junior at Hopewell-Loudon in the fall, is in the midst of her first season as a 305 sprint car racer, spending each weekend — when the weather holds off — at Attica Raceway Park and Fremont Speedway.

She may be new to sprint cars, but not to racing.

Ziebold made the jump to the 305 this year after spending the previous 13 seasons racing go-karts.

It was just time to make a switch from a ground-hugging go-kart to a sprint car, she said.

“It was time for a new challenge,” Ziebold said. “When you do it all season, summer and winter, it got boring.”

Though she had wins and championships, her father, Ken, himself a former go-kart racer, said the sport had become too much of a travel hassle for the family.

Go-kart racing meant spending an entire day away from home each Sunday, traveling to different states. Trips to Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Illinois and Michigan were common, along with an annual trip to North Carolina for indoor racing.

And moving up to sprint cars had always been the plan.

“That was her dream and we wanted to try it,” he said.

Well, part of the dream.

Ziebold said she plans to eventually move up to 410 sprints, possibly as a profession.

The 305 is the entry level sprint car, while the 410 is the top class. There’s also a 360 version. The numbers denote the cubic inch size of the engine used in each class.

“When I get 305s figured out, I hope to move up one day. That’s my goal,” she said.

“It’s cool watching all the World of Outlaws and All Stars being on the road all the time and it being a permanent job,” she said.

Getting there has had its challenges.

Along with rainouts, Ziebold said she’s gone through a learning curve on the track.

“Struggling, but learning,” she said.

“The horsepower and getting comfortable with the car and all the different driving and reaction of it (are challenging),” Ziebold said.

Her best finish so far this year was a 15th in an A-main feature.

Ziebold said she knows the ups and downs come with a rookie season, and that includes watching video replays of her races as part of the process to get better.

“I struggle to watch myself race. I’m the person that even if I have a good run, I pick the bad out and figure I can do better,” she said.

“It’s fun. Being hard on yourself is the most (challenging) thing, mentally,” she said. “You’ve just got to remember that it’s your first season and you can’t be the best or go out and win the first season.”

And all that includes mishaps, such as the time her car tipped over.

“It wasn’t bad, it was just a simple tip over. We got it back together that night,” Ziebold said. “I wasn’t scared. It didn’t bother me.”

Dad said he also wasn’t too concerned since it was a simple tip over and not a cartwheeling rollover.

“It just bothered me more to figure out what to put back together, because we do have enough stuff in the truck to put it back together that night,” he said. “We did put it back together so she could race.”

And mom’s reaction to the tip over?

“Oh, don’t lie, you cried,” Ziebold said, teasing her mother.

“I did,” said her mother, Holly. “It’s OK, I’m over it now. I’ve seen worse in go-karting.”

She’s also seen the work her daughter has put in over the past several years of racing.

“The dedication is there,” her mother said. “She’s definitely hands-on. She’s not one that sits there, she’s right there working on it.”

And that includes more than race night.

Along with reviewing race video, Ziebold puts in maintenance time during the week on the car with her father. However, her dad and a crew concentrate on that on race days, leaving her to focus on racing.

“Proud of her. It’s what she wanted to do. She’s worked hard to get where she’s at and she has a good work ethic,” her father said. “I’ll come home (each) Monday from work, the car’s clean and washed, everything’s done. All we have to do is do the maintenance.

“She’s hard on herself, I’m hard on her. This is her life. This is what we do,” he said. “It’s like any other sport. We want to perform and do your best.”

Support and friendships have come along the way.

The family bought Jody Keegan’s racing equipment when Ziebold moved up to 305s, and her sponsors include Geo Corp., Affordable Auto Painting, Daniel Performance Diesel, Sauber’s Stumble Inn, Coppus Motors, MLAD Graphics, Kear’s Speed Shop, and Level Performance.

Rick Spurgeon, who helped get her started in go-karting, and Scott Burris, for whom she raced for five years, continue their support, the family said.

Craig Mintz, a 410 racer, has also helped a lot, Ziebold’s father said, with many other drivers and teams becoming friends.

It’s been a gratifying summer so far, Ziebold said.

“It’s hard, it’s challenging. A lot different, but it’s fun,” she said.

“Just the feeling. Just having fun. I really can’t explain it,” she said. “I’ve been doing it (racing) for so long, I just enjoy it.”