Leonhardi is coming back home to race this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Leonhardi started 12th on Friday night at Anderson and was fast from the drop of the green.
Several caution flags and a red flag for a fire on a competitor’s car made it difficult for the 12-year-old to make consistent progress, but he was sitting in the right position to take advantage of a late race melee that allowed him to gain four spots and finish fifth overall, and first in his class.
“It was a crazy race,” he said. “I got to sixth with five to go and then got hung up on the outside and fell back a bit. Then that wreck on the last lap happened and I was able to hustle through it and that put me where I thought we should have been by how fast the car was, in the top five. It gave us our first class win, also.
“I’m thankful to get that win and I want to share it with my family and everyone who has helped me get to this point with my racing. I can’t thank them all enough.”
The next day, Leonhardi’s No. 24 car competed at the challenging 1/4-mile course at Concord Speedway in Concord, N.C.
Unlike most tracks Leonhardi runs, where the Young Lions, Semi-Pro, Pro and Masters are often combined into the same race, Concord runs the Young Lions separately.
That doesn’t make the racing any easier for the drivers. In fact, the competition in that class at Concord is stout. The goal for Saturday was simply to improve each time out and roll the car in the trailer in one piece.
That mission was accomplished.
Zach was working with crew chief Matt Drake and driving coach Tom Baker at Concord. There were two separate race programs that day. One in the afternoon and one in the evening.
To show the progress Zach made throughout the day, he qualified with a lap of 14.3 seconds in the morning session, and after a solid run in the feature, which saw him pick up considerable speed and finish the race; he qualified at a 14.0 second lap for the evening race, right with the leaders.
He ran between sixth and seventh much of both races and learned and improved with every lap he drove.
“It was exciting to watch him take the advice Matt and I were giving him and apply it throughout the day, and make so much progress every time out in the car,” Baker said. “Zach is a very intelligent young racer and he’s also very good with the fans. He’s very well-spoken for his age. With more seat time and knowledge of the car’s setups, he’ll have a lot of success.”
For his part, Zach says he really enjoyed his time in the Carolinas and looks forward to returning.
“It was a blast. I have to thank Matt and Tom for being there to help us through the weekend. We’re definitely looking forward to doing more races up there this spring and summer,” Leonhardi said. “ I’m excited to go back to Atlanta this week with more knowledge and confidence and see how we do. We’ll have a new car this weekend and we’ll run as No. 21 because we won’t have time to wrap it in our colors until after Easter. The other car will keep the Carolina setup in it so we won’t have to be changing things over when we travel up there.”