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From the speedway website at www.oswegospeedway.com
OSWEGO, NY (April 24) – The 2012 season opener at Oswego Speedway Saturday, May 5 is shaping up to be one of the most anticipated dates on the northeast racing calendar, and it is only getting bigger. Oswego Speedway announced today that dirt Sprint Car ace Jessica Zemken will join Indy Car veteran Davey Hamilton as guest stars in the opening day Novelis Supermodified line-up presented by Gater Racing News and The Palladium-Times.
Zemken, who will turn 26 the day she attempts to qualify for her first Oswego feature, will be behind the wheel of the Graham Racing No. 12 machine fielded by 2-time Mr. Novelis Supermodified Champion Ray Graham. The Sprakers, NY native will become only the third woman to turn competitive laps in a Supermodified at Oswego joining Sheila Hayes and Jennifer Chesbro. If Zemken qualifies for the opening night main event she will join only Chesbro as women to take a feature event green flag in a Supermodified at ‘The Steel Palace.’
Hayes attempted to qualify for the International Classic in 1970 and 1971, but did not make the cut.
“I’m really excited to get some laps behind the wheel again,” said Zemken, who tested with a wing in October at Oswego but does not have any laps in a Supermodified without a wing. “I have a lot to learn. It is going to be a totally different experience than what I am used to, but I am really looking forward to it. This is something that I have been interested in doing and my Corr-Pak sponsors, John and Wendy Brush, are really into Supermodifieds so we came to see my first race at Oswego last season.”
Even though Zemken has never run a Supermodified without a wing, she will still be in familiar territory, as the No. 12 Graham Racing car she will climb into on Saturday, May 5 is the same car she tested at Oswego back in October. However, Zemken anticipates quite a difference in feel from behind the wheel.
“I’m expecting the car to be a lot looser without the wing and without the down force which is a little more like what I am used to,” said Zemken. “It’ll be a little more out of control and not so stable, which I am expecting, so I think I’ll be prepared for it and be able to adjust to it. I’ve got some good teachers in Ray Graham and I live about five miles from Otto (Sitterly), so I’ve got some good mentors and really good people supporting me in this.”
Zemken is no doubt a tenacious competitor and has racked up quite the resume in dirt Sprint Car racing, both on the 360 and 410 levels. In 2010 Zemken won seven 360 Sprint Car A-mains in less than 12 starts and in 2011 qualified 4th fastest at the prestigious Knoxville Nationals in Knoxville, IA while taking 8th in the national All-Star Circuit of Champions standings.
The young driver looks at her pending Supermodified career in the same fashion as her dirt racing exploits.
“Obviously I don’t plan on going out there and riding around,” Zemken said, while being fitted in her Oswego opening day Supermodified ride. “I have a lot of goals set for myself, maybe a little bit too high, but that is part of being competitive and being a racer. I’m there to be competitive and I hope I learn quick, that’s for sure.”
Other than the May 5 opener at Oswego, Zemken plans on attempting another four events during the season, potentially even the Budweiser International Classic on Labor Day Weekend. If Zemken were to qualify for the most prestigious Supermodified race in the world, she would become the first female to do so.
“We’re going to take things slow and see how it all goes,” said Zemken, who will not be at Oswego for the April 28 test session but instead will run her 410 sprint car at Port Royal Speedway in Pennsylvania. “If I’m prepared and capable and everything goes good than I hope to (run Classic).”
While Zemken is eager to leave her mark on Oswego Speedway, don’t expect to see a full-time shift to asphalt racing in the near future.
“I have hardly any asphalt experience,” said Zemken. “A go-kart maybe twice and a Late Model that was older than me for maybe 20-laps. It’s going to be a totally different experience and I have no plans right now to completely leave the dirt or do anything other than this, but you never know, we’ll see where things go.”
Oswego Speedway events run May through September on most Saturday nights, culminating with the Fall Championship 75 on September 15th.
The annual Speedway open practice is scheduled for April 28th.
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As a driver/owner in the Limited Supermodified division, JJ Andrews covers mostly Oswego Speedway events, from a driver's point of view.