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Zipping around the track with Kennewick’s Brittney Zamora

Racing with Brittney Zamora

Brittney Zamora of Kennewick talks about her career in racing and her upcoming race this weekend in Idaho.
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Brittney Zamora of Kennewick talks about her career in racing and her upcoming race this weekend in Idaho.

Brittney Zamora has been behind the wheel of a car since she was 5 years old. So, one has to wonder how she only got a 98 on her driving test two years ago.

She swears she did not scare the guy “that much.”

She has her license to drive on the road, but it’s her driving on the track that has people taking notice of the recent Kennewick High School graduate.

Brittney in tire
Just 18 months old, Brittney Zamora was getting a feel for tires that would one day be on her car. Courtesy of Mike Zamora

Zamora, 18, is coming off a big win June 17 in Roseburg, Ore., at the Northwest Super Late Model Series Home Insulation Battle of the Burg 125 at Douglas County Speedway.

“It’s crazy,” she said. “We were hoping this year for top five in races, maybe a couple of wins. This shows the hard work my team has put in. We hope to continue the win streak.”

She will get a chance Saturday when she rolls onto the track for the NAPA Auto Parts Treasure Valley 125 Presented By Mike Minegar’s Auto Body at Meridian (Idaho) Speedway.

“It was my first time at Roseburg and we won,” Zamora said. “This is my first time at Meridian, and we hope we can do the same thing there.”

Driving Lucy — her black and green Ford with the No. 52 splashed on the side — Zamora leads the Northwest Super Late Model Series with 186 points, followed by Mitch Kleyn of Quincy (175). Pasco’s Ed Thomsen is in fifth place in the standings with 148 points.

Zamora’s win in Roseburg was the first ever by a female in the series, and she is the first female to lead the points standings.

“When I was in mini-stock, the guys were pretty hard on me and thought I didn’t belong,” she said. “I won multiple races and the championship, and they thought I was cheating. Now that I’m driving the big car, the guys are more respectful. They congratulate me when I win, and they race clean against me on the track.”

Her father, Mike Zamora, said he could not be more proud of his daughter’s accomplishments.

“I’m not really surprised, she has been driving since she was 5,” he said. “That (win in Roseburg) was the best moment of my career, even when I raced. To be able to win a race like that is huge.”

Brittney is coming off a solid rookie year in 2016, where she won Rookie of the Year honors, along with a fourth-place finish in the series points.

“Last year set some pretty high standards for this year,” Zamora said.

Off to a good start

Zamora began the 2017 season with a tune-up race in the Chilly Willy 150 at Tucson Speedway on Feb. 4. She finished 13th in the 38-car field, fighting handling issues the entire race.

“I hadn’t raced since October and I just wanted to get things going,” she said. “It was the toughest competition I have ever raced against.”

She began the nine-race Northwest Super Late Model Series on April 29 at the Leonard Evans 150 at Wenatchee Valley’s Super Oval, where she placed fourth.

On June 3, she finished a disappointing 10th at the South Sound 125 in Tenino.

“We were third and fighting for the lead position,” she said. “The top two cars took each other out and our car got banged up. We got it fixed for Roseburg. It was nice to come back from that and get a win.”

At Roseburg, she also set a track record in qualifying at 14.547 seconds.

That’s a pretty quick pace, but during a race speeds generally range from 120 to 130 mph depending on the size of the track.

After Saturday’s race in Meridian, she will be back in Spokane on July 29.

It’s been three weeks since Zamora won in Roseburg, and she’s excited to get behind the wheel.

“This three weeks has been the longest break of the year,” she said. “It’s makes me that much more excited to get back in the car.”

Second-generation driver

Zamora went to her first race when she was 2 weeks old — her dad Mike was competing. She started racing Go-Karts when she was 5, and got behind the wheel of a stock car when she was 16.

“I grew up watching my dad and I always knew I wanted to race,” she said. “I couldn’t wait to get behind the wheel. I’ve been in love with it ever since.”

And she’s been successful at every level.

Brittney heart glasses
A young Brittney Zamora ‘test driving’ her dad Mike’s car. Just 15 years later, she’s behind the wheel of a stock car and forging her own path on the track. Courtesy of Mike Zamora

In July 2012, Zamora took home a second-place finish at the International Kart Federation 4-Cycle Sprint Grand Nationals at Horn Rapids ORV Park in Richland.

The only semi-serious crash she has been in came driving Go-Karts when she was 12.

“I ran into the barrier and bruised my elbow and my ribs,” Zamora said. “I was out for a couple of weeks, but as soon as I could, I was back in the car.”

After two years and two championships in mini-stock, Zamora moved to the bigger car.

On April 10, 2016, she made her Super Late Model debut, finishing 12th out of 24 drivers in the Apple Cup 150 at Yakima Speedway.

“It was time for her to take the step to get in the big car,” Mike said. “I’m not worried about her, but as a father, you are worried about others and what you can’t control. With all of the safety equipment we have, I know she is safe in there.”

The plan always was for Zamora to drive her dad’s car, but a crash one year in Monroe totaled that idea. They started from the frame up and built Lucy, which has served her well.

“I feel she is a better driver than I was,” Mike said. “She is more smooth, more calm. I was more ‘get your elbows up and put the pedal down.’ She is more careful with the equipment than I ever was.”

Her dad, her uncle Larry Hewitt and grandpa Sam Morris are her pit crew and chief mechanics. She tries to get her hands dirty every now and again, but they are much quicker at making the adjustments and replacing parts.

“I do a little, but I’m always helping with setup and getting the car race ready,” she said. “I love learning about the car, and I spend a lot of time at the shop.”

She also has a big following at races with her mom Tobi, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents.

“That is the great thing about this, we are 100 percent a family team,” Mike said. “It’s special to do this and share it with family.”

An expensive love affair

Zamora’s team runs on a tight budget, but she got a little help after Roseburg, picking up sponsor Leonard Evans No. 1 Used Car Superstore in Wenatchee for the rest of the season.

The biggest sponsor — which is Leonard Evans at the moment — goes on the hood of the car. Also stepping up to help the young driver are Brashear Electric, Luke’s Carpet, Cascade Fire Protection and North Tech Equipment Repair. She has a few other smaller sponsors, and every penny helps keep her on the track.

“We have everything from the gas to get where we are going, hotels, food and towing expenses, and that’s just to leave the house,” said Zamora, who is working this summer at the Boys & Girls Club. “For the race, you have entry fees, parts and tires.”

A win will put a good $3,000 in your pocket, but the winnings from second on down drop pretty quickly.

“It’s not like you profit off a win,” Zamora said. “It all goes back in the car, and it goes pretty fast.”

She wrote an essay earlier this year in hopes of winning a Champion’s “On the Track” contest for sponsorship, but she did not win.

“I don’t have enough time or experience in this car yet for a sponsorship like that,” she said. “But it doesn’t hurt to apply.”

A couple more wins on the circuit, and they just might come to her.

Annie Fowler: 509-582-1574, @TCHIceQueen

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