DAVENPORT, IA (Aug. 25, 2023) – Three months ago, Zach Daum was picking up the pieces of his mangled racecar from the track, watching his name fall further down the points standings. Fast forward to Friday night at Davenport Speedway, and the defending champion is celebrating his fourth Feature win of the season.
It’s been a giant turnaround for Daum, the 32-year-old open-wheel racing veteran from Pocahontas, IL. A self-built operation got him through the first quarter of the Xtreme Outlaw Midget Series presented by Toyota schedule, but with less success than he would have liked. After weeks of persistence, Daum was tapped to fill an empty seat in the Oklahoma-based Trifecta Motorsports stable in early June, and nothing’s been the same since.
Four Toyota Racing Feature wins since the big switch has vaulted Daum from ninth in the Series championship standings, where he once stood 278 points behind the leader, up to fourth where he now rides 97 points back with nine races left on the calendar.
Daum took the next step in pursuit of back-to-back Xtreme Outlaw championships with the win Friday night in the POWRi National Midget League co-sanctioned event, and hasn’t lost hope of his ultimate goal.
“I don’t know if we’ve got a shot at it,” he said. “I’m racing like we do.”
One year ago, Daum came up one spot short of victory in the MyPlace Hotels Quad Cities 150 presented by Hoker Trucking, and said Friday’s run felt similar to his experience last year.
“We Qualified like absolute hell, slow as hell in Qualifying, but we just race good here,” Daum said. “I know why we have race speed; we just don’t have Qualifying speed. We were just downing ourselves after Qualifying and had to dig ourselves out of a hole. Starting eighth in a Heat Race is awful.”
Daum was able to rebound from his unfavorable Qualifying effort, advancing to fourth by the checkers in his Heat to secure a ninth-place starting spot for the Feature. While polesitter Ryan Timms checked out up front early on, Daum was busy making moves, running his signature line on the track.
“The first couple laps, I was trying to make sure the grease was blown off the bottom early and I could get a lane underneath where all those guys were,” Daum said. “I went from ninth to, I think, fifth in two laps.”
From eighth on the grid, Cannon McIntosh had also sped his way to the front, advancing five spots on the opening lap.
“I jumped up and made a move and was able to rip by about five guys there,” McIntosh said. “Some guys got caught up behind other guys, and I did my best to keep my momentum up and have the most speed I could out of Turn 4.”
By the halfway point, Daum had made the pass on McIntosh for third and set his sights on the leaders in front of him. First in line – Hayden Reinbold, who was in the midst of a career-best run when Daum got by him on Lap 19 after a neck-and-neck battle.
By this time, Timms had all but sealed the victory, holding a two-second advantage on Daum and Reinbold, when he slowed and pulled to the infield under green. The Keith Kunz Motorsports crew soon inspected the car and found a large gash in the side of the oil tank, ultimately ending his night.
Daum had taken second by that point and inherited the lead for the final restart. However, he did not get a great launch and gave the lead up to McIntosh behind him as they crossed the stripe on Lap 26. With some bottom-lane speed, Daum was able to power back around McIntosh on Lap 27 and lead the field back around to the checkers.
“I knew we had a fast car, I was just trying to make sure we could run our race,” Daum said. “[Track crew] went out and farmed the whole thing and I kinda figured those guys would move to the middle to the top and I could maintain speed where I was at. It ended up working out for us.”
McIntosh crossed the stripe runner-up to bag his first podium with the Series in seven races. After such a dominant stretch to start the season, the young Oklahoman had been caught in a rut of finishes outside the top-five, but said he felt his efforts Friday start to turn it around.
“I think it’s just the car and myself not meshing very well, and not having that overall speed that we needed,” McIntosh said about his mid-season results. “Whether one night it’s me, or one night it feels like the car, the overall package just hasn’t been where it needs to be.
“Tonight, I feel like we were closer, but still not where we fully want to be. I think that’s where we just gotta keep working at it and we’ll close that gap.”
Reinbold held on for third, locking in his first career podium finish in a national Midget series event. The 19-year-old driver for Reinbold/Underwood Motorsports was coming off a solid stretch with the Series through Pennsylvania two weeks ago and put it in the spotlight Friday night.
“[My crew] just keep giving me fast cars, I keep doing better and improving, and we keep getting better results here and there,” Reinbold said. “I feel like we could’ve had a shot at winning it if the caution didn’t come out.”