AMSOIL Sprints
Wednesday, 9 November 2016


Chad Boespflug - 6th in USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car points. Chad Boespflug - 6th in USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car points. Ryan Kent Photo


By: Scott Daloisio

When it comes to open wheel racing, Greenfield, Wisconsin’s Fred Zirzow has just about seen it all in his 46 years. The biggest races, the top stars and the famous cars have been a part of his life since he was three-months old.

Now, as a car owner, there is one win he wants more than any other - a victory at this week’s Budweiser Oval Nationals presented by All Coast Construction at Perris Auto Speedway.

Zirzow’s father began taking him to many of the biggest races in the sport when he was still in diapers. The exposure made him a lifelong fan who began prowling the Midwest for big races. He swam at hotel pools with a young Jeff Gordon and played video games alongside Tony Stewart long before his NASCAR days. Now Zirzow travels from one end of the country to the other and he has not missed a USAC National Sprint Car Series race in 2016.

One young racer Zirzow met and who is partially responsible for him getting into the ownership end of the sport was the late Bryan Clauson.

“I started talking to Bryan when he was he was about 13 or 14,” said Zirzow, who is a bartender when he is not at the track. “I got to know him really well and, as things progressed, I used to always joke with him, ‘If I ever get involved with a sprint car team, I want you to drive.’ He would joke back, ‘If you find one and get it going, if I can make it happen, I will drive for you.’ It was like an ongoing joke between us.”

The ongoing joke got serious three years ago. Zirzow, who is a bowler, had a friend he knew from bowling who used to race modifieds named Chuck Eberhardt. Zirzow took Eberhardt to a couple races in Indiana and, one night, at Terre Haute during Indiana Sprint Week, he introduced him to Clauson. On the ride home afterward, Eberhardt stated he wished he could do something in racing with Clauson because he seemed like a nice kid.

Eberhardt started talking to Zirzow and Clauson about putting a motor together. Zirzow saw a power plant that belonged to Coleman Gulick for sale. He spoke to Clauson who said he had a car in his shop they could put the motor in. As soon as he told Eberhardt about the engine, Eberhardt purchased it, they put it in Clauson’s car and they won the last race of the year at Gas City, Indiana.

“The next year, we ran the full year at Kokomo,” Zirzow said. “We won the track championship and we were able to pay off the car with what we won. I then bought a second car so we could have a backup car for Bryan. But, at the end of the year, Bryan quit TSR (Tony Stewart Racing for whom Clauson drove in the USAC National series). He planned to go and stick most of the time with wing racing.”

That left Zirzow and Eberhardt looking for a driver. They hired Clauson’s friend Tyler Courtney in 2015. They had fun and did well, but Courtney got a deal to go wing racing as well. That brought Hanford, California native Chad Boespflug into the picture.

Boespflug, now 28, moved from his native California to Indiana about 10 years ago as soon as he graduated from high school. He moved to Indiana for one reason - to race sprint cars. The driver known as the “Hanford Hornet” did quite well. However, this year after teaming with Zirzow and Eberhardt to form NineEight/EZ Racing, Boespflug and his two co-owners are having a year they never even dreamed about when they teamed up.

Heading into this week’s Oval Nationals, they have won five USAC National Series main events and are sixth in the championship point standings. The only driver in the series with more wins this year is Clauson who had racked up seven victories prior to his passing in August.

Two of Boespflug’s wins came in August at the “Rock and Roll Gold Cup” at Badlands Motor Speedway in Brandon, South Dakota. The wins came on back-to-back nights paying $10,000.00 to win the first night and $50,000.00 to win the second night. That is a cool $60,000.00 in a little more than 24 hours and, in the sprint car racing world, that is a ton of money.

A recent text message from Zirzow indicated how much winning the Oval Nationals would mean to him. When queried over the phone, he replied.

“I would take an Oval Nationals win over the Badland’s wins,” Zirzow said. “Winning at Eldora was really cool with all of the history that is there. Winning at Badlands was cool and it was a lot of money, but it is new and you do not know if it is going to happen again. This will be the 21st straight year for the Oval Nationals. I have been coming out west for the Oval Nationals since the early 2000s. I have been to all of them, except for one year when I came to Turkey Night instead. The years I have been going to Perris, and the fact that it is one of my favorite tracks, makes the Oval Nationals very special. Perris is a very special place for me. I travel year-after-year-after-year to the west coast and it is mostly to come to Perris. In addition, this year having Chad, who is from California and crew chief Davey Jones ties to Perris - he helped build the track along with his father Bubby - and crew member Bryan Stanfill, also from California, I think it would mean the world to win the Oval Nationals.”

Of course, there is one more reason Zirzow would like to win the Oval Nationals as well. He is a very talented bowler and something about the Oval Nationals reminds him of bowling.

“When you bowl and you win a National Bowling Tournament, you get an eagle,” he laughed. “Obviously when you win the Oval Nationals, you win an eagle trophy as well. That was kind of the pinnacle thing for me to get when I bowled - an eagle. I see the Oval Nationals trophy and it reminds me of that, too.”

The Oval Nationals takes place this Thursday, Friday and Saturday, November 10th, 11th and 12th. Gates will open at 4:00 PM on Thursday and Friday with racing at 7:00. For Saturday’s finale, gates will open at 3:00 PM with racing at 7:30. In addition, there will be a practice session for Oval Nationals entered cars at 5:00 PM on Wednesday, November 9th. The practice is free for fans in the grandstands and there will be $2.00 pizza, soda and beer.