GREENFIELD — Two years into his racing career, Zach Holden won his first go-kart championship at New Castle Motorsports Park. Two years later, he struck up a friendship with the late Dan Wheldon.
As 2013 winds down, Holden’s father, Paul, estimates that after a successful season his son has more championships (14-16) than years on Earth (13).
Zach, a Greenfield native, is working toward a professional racing career. If he keeps winning, he just may get there.
The younger Holden races for Top Kart USA, a go-kart organization that has an outfit based in Indianapolis and covers Zach’s tournament entry fees, tires and other expenses. Comet Kart Sales, a go-kart supplier in Greenfield run by local racing legend Mark Dismore and his family, works on Holden’s engines and supports his team.
Paul used to race Legend Cars — something Zach does when he’s not racing go-karts — and would work on his vehicles between races. Zach came around to help Paul tinker with the cars and wanted to see all of his dad’s excursions on the track.
At age five, Zach began racing go-karts at NCMS.
“When I first started, it was really hard,” said Zach, a student at Greenfield-Central Junior High School. “It was very difficult. I went out at the tracks for many years before I finally got it.”
In 2007, seven-year old Zach acquired his first title, a class championship in kid karts.
Two years later, Zach was racing in Daytona, Fla., when he happened to walk under the same tent as Wheldon, a two-time Indianapolis 500 champion.
At the time, Zach was sporting a mohawk — the same hairdo as Wheldon’s son, Sebastian. Wheldon, who began racing go-karts in his native England when he was four, approached Zach and told him his hair was “cool,” Zach recalled.
“He’s one of the people I look up to,” Zach said of Wheldon, who died in October of 2011 after crashing during a race in Las Vegas. “He was a really nice guy and helpful to everyone. We were really good friends.”
Zach’s name began to rise in 2010, when he was the NCMP champion in Junior Sportsman 1 and Junior Sportsman 2 and was named 2010 NCMP Driver of the Year.
The next year, Zach was the NCMP Triple Champion in Junior Sportsman 1 and Junior Sportsman 2.
In 2012, Zach picked up eight feature wins in the World Karting Association national season. He also won his first WKA national championship in the Yamaha Sportsman 1 circuit.
This past year, Zach won the United States Pro Kart Series Yamaha Junior title with five victories in eight events. Zach also claimed Cadet Sportsman, Komet Sportsman and Yamaha Sportsman crowns in the Great Lakes Sprint Series.
“He’s progressing” Paul said. “He’s getting better and better.”
The family has traveled to Florida, South Carolina, Nevada, North Carolina and Wisconsin, as well as various places around Indiana, in 2013.
As long as Zach maintains an A to B average in school, he’s allowed to continue racing. The Holdens wrote a letter to GCJHS with racing dates before the school year.
“They excused him and let him make up his work,” Paul said. “Most of the teachers give him three days to get the work done once he gets back. The school is really working with us.”
The Holdens left Christmas Day for Daytona to compete in the first 2014 WKA event.
“It takes a lot of time. We don’t get what other people call vacations; this is our vacation,” said Paul, who is self-employed. “It’s a little hectic, but it’s what he wants to do. He wants to be a professional racecar driver. And he knows he has to put the time in when he’s young.”
While Zach wouldn’t mind being an IndyCar or NASCAR driver, competing in Formula One would be his first choice. F1 drivers battle in races around the world in single-seater cars that are considered the fastest multi-turn circuit-racing vehicles in the world, reaching speeds of over 200 mph.
“I really like F1. It’s difficult and a lot harder,” said Zach, who added that the high speeds of F1 don’t scare him. “It takes a lot of talent and strength.”
Through the long travel hours and inevitable repairs to his vehicles, Zach has enjoyed his racing journey so far.
“I love being around it,” he said. “I really like it because I’ve improved and done well, and it’s nice to be around my friends.”