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“It Was Wild”- Trackhouse Racing Recruit Connor Zilisch Unravels His On-Track Duel

Published 01/29/2024, 1:25 AM EST

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Just the other day, young gun Connor Zilisch, inked a deal with Trackhouse Racing that’s set to span multiple years. With a background seasoned in Trans Am and karting, Zilisch is now setting his sights on the big leagues of stock-car racing. Under this new pact, he’s slated to dip his toes into a mix of CARS Tour, ARCA Menards Series, Trans Am, and IMSA races, not to mention gearing up for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and Xfinity Series in the upcoming ’24 and ’25 seasons, as spilled by the press release.

And in his latest endeavors, Zilisch made a splash at the 62nd Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona and took on the Michelin Endurance Cup’s five-race challenge with the LMP2 squad, Era Motorsport. But when it comes down to getting the hang of different racing beasts and jostling for position with rivals like Malthe Jakobsen, that’s a whole different ball game.

Connor Zilisch claims he is used to side-by-side racing

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Right after Connor Zilisch crossed the finish line of the grueling 24-hour race, the media swarmed around him. They were buzzing about that on-track scuffle he had with Malthe Jakobsen in the thick of the race. Zilisch shrugged it off, saying, “Yeah, it was wild. I feel like I’d been in that situation before with all the racing that I’ve done. I’m kind of more used to the side-by-side racing. I felt pretty comfortable in that situation. I had great spotters up on the spotter stand and engineers tell me what I needed to do. Just pretty much listen to them, the whole race, and just hitting my marks and doing what they tell me.”

But what exactly went down? In the LMP2 class, there was this edge-of-your-seat showdown for the lead between CrowdStrike Racing by APR’s Malthe Jakobsen and Era Motorsport’s Connor Zilisch. These two were duking it out, with Zilisch playing it smart to maintain his edge. With three hours to go, Jakobsen, in the #4, was chasing Zilisch in the #18. Their intense duel came to a head when they both dove into the pits simultaneously.

Zilisch handed over the reins to Ryan Dalziel, while Jakobsen stayed put in his ride. Jakobsen edged out first from the pits, snatching the class lead. Despite this, Zilisch was over the moon about his stint, with Jakobsen leading Dalziel by a little over five seconds when the 18-hour mark rolled around.

Aside from this on-track drama, Zilisch also opened up about getting the hang of different cars, especially how he’s been adapting to the ORECA 07-Gibson.

Zilisch believes prep work helps him figure out the car better

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Connor Zilisch credits his knack for quickly getting a handle on cars to his thorough groundwork. When asked about his learning curve with the car, he shared, “I feel like I’d done a lot of prep work for it and, you know, I knew I wasn’t gonna get a lot of laps, so I had to do that prep work and be prepared when I showed up. So, you know, I feel like the first session, once I got acclimated to how it really felt in real life and the GTs of it, you know, I felt pretty solid about it.”

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He continued, “So, yeah, not too long. I feel like I can adapt to a lot of different cars quickly with how many cars that I’m driving. So, it’s really just a matter of, you know, figuring it out quickly and, you know, prep work is the biggest thing for me.” Zilisch’s prowess particularly shines on road courses, a skill honed from a decade of karting, which even took him across Europe at the tender age of 11.

This early immersion in racing set him on a fast track, culminating in snagging the Mazda MX-5 Cup scholarship in 2021. He didn’t stop there, though, bagging the 2022 Rookie of the Year title, a close second in the overall standings, and clinching four victories just last season.

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Adding to his laurels, Zilisch also triumphed in the CARS Pro Late Model Tour race at Ace Speedway in May, driving for Rackley W.A.R. Racing. With racing giants like Dale Earnhardt Jr, Jeff Burton, and Kevin Harvick backing the CARS Tour, Zilisch’s extensive experience behind the wheel, at his young age, suggests it won’t be long before he’s rubbing elbows with the big guns in a NASCAR Cup race.

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Written by:

Neha Dwivedi

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Neha Dwivedi is a NASCAR Writer at EssentiallySports. As a journalist, she religiously believes in the power of research, which allows her readers to dive deep into her stories and experience the detailed nuances of the sport like never before. Being proficient with Core Sport and Live Event Coverage, she has written multiple copies on the top entities of Stock Car Racing, like Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott, and Tony Stewart.
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Edited by:

Sameen Nawathe