Race Weekend Central

Connor Zilisch Lit Up the Truck World in COTA Qualifying. He’s Not Done Yet

AUSTIN, Texas — The past year has been quite the experience for 17-year-old Charlotte native Connor Zilisch, and on Friday, the young man only added to the steady-growing hype around his name.

Nick Sanchez set the track record in the first round of qualifying with a 2:13.1 and celebrated accordingly. Zilisch, however, made sure he couldn’t celebrate for too long, as he went out in the first round of group B and thrashed the old track record for the Craftsman Truck Series by more than 1.5 seconds.

The record that Sanchez beat out was held by Ross Chastain, Zilisch’s Spire Motorsports teammate. Zilisch absolutely blitzed it, and his run caught the attention of every single eye that was glued to the TV for Friday’s (March 22) XPEL 225 qualifying.

Then, Zilisch did it again. Before the dust had settled and NASCAR Xfinity Series qualifying began, Zilisch broke his record once more in final qualifying with a time of 2:11.983 and a speed of 93.012 mph.

This feat, coupled with his class wins in the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring earlier this year, showcased something Zilisch is very proud of — his chase of perfection. Even with that lap, he still thinks he can get even more speed out of the truck.

“Yeah, 100% (I think I could go faster),” Zilisch said after his qualifying run. “I never really get to the point where I think that I’m perfect, I always feel like I can get better and continue to work on what I’m doing. I’ll get back to the hotel tonight, study what I did and see where I can be better. I’ve only got 10 laps in the truck, so to say I’d be perfect is definitely a long shot.”

See also
Connor Zilisch Wins Pole at COTA in Trucks Debut

For a 17-year-old, Zilisch exudes collectedness. The moment never seems too big for him, whether it’s behind the wheel of an IMSA car, ARCA ride and now a NASCAR Truck. That’s on purpose, too.

“[Making mistakes] is one thing I struggled with,” said Zilisch. “I actually had to go to a sports psychologist to kind of talk about it, because I’d just get so nervous and amped up before races that I’d just go out there and completely mess up, so that’s one thing I just really had to work on.”

Lots of athletes have something they’re superstitious about, especially when they have a good day. Baseball players may never change shoelaces, plenty of basketball players have lucky socks and many racers have something that they have to do in order to get their mind in the right place. That isn’t the case for Zilisch, though.

“I stay away from [superstitions],” Zilisch said. “I don’t want to get in my own head, believing things that may not be true.”

Zilisch said that tomorrow, his plan is to show up in a new pair of socks, no lucky pair in sight, and hope to have the same results. To be fair, if he did wind up with some lucky socks, he probably would have just broken his own record again, right?

About the author

Tanner Marlar is a staff writer for On3 Sports' Maroon and White Daily covering Mississippi State Athletics, an AP Wire reporter, an award-winning sports columnist and talk show host and master's student at Mississippi State University. Soon, Tanner will be pursuing a PhD. in Communicative Research.

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