A 2010 Genoa High School graduate, Ryan Zunk, has moved into a key role on the national stock car racing scene.
Just over a week ago, Zunk was at Michigan International Speedway as part of an ARCA pit crew. ARCA, NASCAR’s little brothe,r provides an opportunity for new drivers and mechanics to get experience and eventually move up to the major league NASCAR circuit.
Make no mistake — ARCA may not have the budget or following that NASCAR has, these carbureted engines (NASCAR uses fuel injection which is more costly) still have all the speed and thrills.
|Ryan Zunk (Press photo by Harold Hamilton/HEH
Zunk does some of his training and practice sessions at Michael Waltrip’s racing facility in North Carolina, which is close to where Zunk lives.
Meanwhile, he’s traveling all over the country on the ARCA circuit. He has been to Dayton, Talladega and Pocono, just to name a few.
Zunk says for a team to be a consistent winner you need, of course, a good driver and strong pit crew. Zunk has fit his part of the bill.
After studying auto mechanics at Penta County Vocational School, Zunk attended the University of Northwestern Ohio and received an associate degree with a dual major in automotive technology and high performance motorsports. Now he is starting to live his dream.
Zunk is in his third year as a pit crew member and has moved up to the Win-Tron racing group with the responsibility of changing the two rear tires for Mason Mingus’ No. 32 ARCA car.
He says the entire seven-man pit crew functions as a precision team with each member allowed only a few seconds to complete their assignments. The entire pit crew has just 13 seconds to complete all of their duties and get Mingus’ car back on the track.
Zunk says he must be sure to not interfere with his teammates’ assignments, not let a tire roll out into the pit alley, and keep Mingus’ machine from being hit by another pitting race car. He says each car typically will have eight tires available in the pit for the race and depending on conditions may use all of them.
Zunk has his own set of dangers to deal with that can make stock car racing just as treacherous for him as it is for the driver.
Zunk says his biggest personal fear is being hit by one of the cars coming into the pits. He says the drivers come in very fast, racing at speeds nearing 200 mile per hour and slowing off that to pit. If the pits are crowded they must turn quickly to get into their space. Zunk says if a driver misjudges or has a brake problem it could be big trouble for him and those around him.
The other fear is fire. The cars have their gas tanks topped off during every pit stop and some of the 110-octane gasoline always spills on the concrete. Sometimes when a car exits the pits a tire will kick up one of the lug bolts and sparks fly. With all of that gasoline underfoot it makes a mechanic, driver, and other pit crew members nervous. Zunk says the lug nuts are not reused after a tire change and remain where they fall until the car exits the pit so they can be swept up.