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As NASCAR enters a new era of drivers, there is a rising prodigy that has turned heads unlike any other. When Justin Marks announced his involvement with the development of 17-year-old Connor Zilisch, the Trackhouse owner’s excitement knew no bounds. Recently, Zilisch also gave other team owners and NASCAR veterans like Dale Earnhardt Jr the opportunity to witness his abilities as he won the LMP2 Class at the Rolex 24 at Daytona. He has also achieved great success in the MAZDA MX-5 Cup.

With that said, the young star hailing from South Charlotte is entering yet another season with a resume unlike any other, after JR Motorsports announced a multi-race deal. Naturally, his new boss at JRM was keen to know just what made Zilisch so dominant in such contrasting forms of motorsport.

Connor Zilisch credits Kyle Larson as the inspiration for his multi-disciplinary adventures

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Now that Zilisch will be running a few races in the Xfinity Series for JR Motorsports, Dale Earnhardt Jr took the time to bond with his new talent on the Dale Jr Download. Going over Zilisch’s impressive portfolio of Trans-Am, NASCAR, LMP2 and other events lined up for 2024, Junior wanted to know just what compelled the young talent to become a master of all trades, instead of just one.

Junior stated, “You’re 17 years old and you’ve already got pretty much a resume that anybody in motorsports would be envious of. Who is behind and what is the idea behind you being in so many different cars, driving so many different types of vehicles at this young age?” 

While Zilisch felt he made the most of every opportunity that landed in his lap, the truth was, Zilisch enjoyed driving more than anything. He stated, “I don’t wanna say no to any opportunity in life, right? As long as the car is safe and it’s gonna drive, I wanna drive it so. That’s part of my own, kind of what I like to do. I want to get into as many different things as possible, guys like Kyle Larson, a bunch of talent, a bunch of success, those are the kinds of guys that drive a bunch of different cars and that’s kind of what I look up to.”

Whether he’s engrossed in the Sprint Car world or joining legends like Tony Stewart with his Indy500-Coke600 attempt, it’s no secret just how diverse Kyle Larson is as a driver. Naturally, Zilisch felt that the HMS star was the ideal role model in terms of his career trajectory. He added, “I wanna be like him and be able to get in anything, you know, go race the Indy 500 and come back and win a cup race at Charlotte on the same day.”

At the end of the day, while Zilisch is touted as the next big thing in NASCAR, he views the world of motorsports from a far wider lens. The 17-year-old concluded. “So that’s kind of the guy that I look up to and who I want to be one day, as a NASCAR driver, and I don’t want to be known as just a NASCAR driver one day, I want to ride in as many different cars as time will let me and that’s kind of the way that I have looked at things as a 17-year-old, and I’m gonna continue to do that for as long as I can.” 

READ MORE: NASCAR News: Xfinity Debutant Connor Zilisch Receives Multiple Race Callup From Dale Jr’s NASCAR Team

While it’s safe to say Zilisch shows no signs of slowing down on his diverse motorsport journey, Earnhardt Jr was also interested to know just how the 17-year-old ended up racing some of F1’s future stars during his early years in karting.

How Zilisch’s soccer coach helped kickstart his jaw-dropping motorsport journey

Although Zilisch is now making waves in the American motorsports scene with significant backing from the likes of Justin Marks, only a few years ago the Charlotte native had found himself in Europe, racing against the best karting drivers in the world. But that’s exactly what Junior seemed to be curious about, as Zilisch was originally half the globe away from Europe.

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Putting Junior’s curiosity to ease, Zilisch shared, “It’s kind of a funny story actually, my dad was always a gearhead. He always liked cars growing up but he had a single mother, a schoolteacher, so he never really had the opportunity to do anything. When I was a kid, I grew up playing soccer until I was probably 9 or 10 years old. When I was 4 or 5, my soccer coach suggested to my dad that he get us go-karts, me and my two older brothers, so he took him up on it and got us all go-karts.”

As Zilisch’s father was an automotive enthusiast himself, it took barely any convincing before Zilisch and his brothers were in go-karts, visiting the local track on weekends to have a blast. “That’s kind of where I fell in love with the sport and where I first found my passion for motorsports,” Zilisch shared. What originally started off as a hobby, soon turned into regional wins and before he knew it, Zilisch was on his way to Europe. He concluded, “It was funny how it all came about. But I’m very thankful that it did and the stars aligned how they did.”

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READ MORE: Justin Marks Lay Bares His Intentions of Roping Connor Zilisch Into Trackhouse Racing

After taking a look at Zilisch’s diverse background in all forms of grassroots motorsports, it’s only a matter of time before the young driver makes his way into one of the world’s top motorsport categories in a full-time role.