Since Zach Daum started racing midgets, he’s only missed one running of the annual USAC Indiana Midget Week, which will take place for the 19th time on June 4-11.
Considering the 32-year-old has been around the sport for more than a decade, it’s an impressive attendance record. Last year, Daum made his 50th career feature start at USAC’s Indiana Midget Week — placing him second all-time. Jerry Coons Jr. leads the all-time start list with 64 Indiana Midget Week green flags.
Daum’s history at midget week begins as most racing stories do — with he and his father.
“It’s something that me and my dad did since I was 16 years old,” Daum said. “It’s just something I’ve always enjoyed doing.”
In his years of attendance, the Pocahontas, Ill., has experienced a laundry list of ups and downs during the intense racing stretch that tears through various dirt tracks across Indiana.
A high: Visiting victory lane at Lawrenceburg Speedway in 2013.
“We happened to win, and we were racing with a bunch of really, really good guys. Just a different crowd than what there is now,” Daum said. He recalled lining up against established veterans such as Brad Kuhn, Tracy Hines, Darren Hagens, Bobby East, Bryan Clauson and Coons Jr. that night.
On the flipside, during Daum’s most recent USAC midget win at the Belleville High Banks on May 21, nearly half the field was comprised of up-and-coming talents — many of whom are a decade or more Daum’s junior. Jade Avedisian (16), Daison Pursley (18) and Ryan Timms (16) were among the challengers that night.
“It was just a different crowd of racing back then,” Daum commented.
But regardless of the competition, 10 years ago, that Sunday night at Lawrenceburg was a sweet one. The Illinois native noted that bringing home a little extra money didn’t hurt either.
A low: Blowing up four engines in four nights.
“I think it was the next year we blew up four motors and we went home early,” Daum said. He laughs about it now, but it was a tough pill to swallow in the moment. “Again, that’s the ups and the downs of racing.”
For him, Indiana Midget Week demands the same mental resiliency that’s required to ride the highs and bounce back from the lows during a typical racing season. But managing the mental game is a quality Daum believes he’s improved with age.
“It’s easier to tell yourself that you know how to drive a race car when you know you can,” Daum said. “But right now, I don’t even know what to think when I’m driving home.”
As he spoke, the 32-year-old was standing by his self-owned team hauler in the pits at Millbridge (N.C.) Speedway, packed up and ready to drive 12 hours back to Illinois with a “junked race car” inside. A mere hour earlier, Daum had taken a hard hit from Carson Hocevar out on the one-sixth-mile dirt oval and flipped his No. 5d midget during Xtreme Outlaw competition.
“That wasn’t the first time I crashed and it won’t be the last time I crash,” Daum said with a shrug. “That’s just part of it and you just move on.”
It didn’t take Daum long to bounce back, as he swept both Xtreme Outlaw races at Illinois’ Wayne County Speedway on June 2-3 in the No. 7u midget for Trifecta Motorsports. Now, he’ll be looking to add to his already lengthy start record at Indiana Midget Week, which starts June 4 at Indiana’s Tri-State Speedway.