Semi-Pro driver, Zach Mertes, found his love for racing at a young age watching NASCAR and Speed Racer and has now been able to transfer that passion into the driver’s seat. Starting in Derby Cars, he now races on iRacing and a Legend Car, which in order to pay for his Legend Car, he took a loan out! Mertes loves all things motorsports and wants to continue to prove his dedication and love for the sport.


Hometown: Wake Forest, North Carolina

Race Team: 316 Motorsports

Car Number: 02

Division: Semi-Pro

Favorite Animal: Cheetah


1. What first got you started in racing?

When I was around three years old I would watch NASCAR with my dad and we would have a lot of fun doing that but it was really when my parents would go out on date nights when we used to live in Pennsylvania and they would go and have dinner at Cracker Barrel and pick up the old Speed Racer DVDs in the country store and bring them home. I just got so wrapped up watching Speed Racer I took one look at my parents and I said “I want to become a professional racecar driver.”

2. How has your racing journey been so far?

I started racing, really downhill racing with the Soapbox Derby cars and I did that for three years and then I stepped up into Go-Karting and ran that for a few years and got a little more situated with racing. Then in about 2020 I hopped up in a Legend Car running part-time in 2020 and then full-time from 2021 on.

3. What has been your favorite car to race in?

I think so far my favorite car has definitely been the Legend Car. It’s been a huge learning curve and it’s allowed me to look at racing and different aspects that I’ve never really thought of before. The Legend Car has been really just a learning curve, it’s got a major power-to-weight ratio that I’ve never seen before. It’s something that you really need to learn to drive on the edge of control to be fast and it gives racers who are up and coming a chance to really step into a car that could catapult them further with their driving skills.

4. What has been the hardest transition for you?

The hardest transition was from karts to Legends just because of the different driving styles and how they all seem similar but also different. Karts and Legends are similar in the sense that you need to keep the momentum up, they’re momentum-based cars, whereas they’re different because of the totally different driving styles where you can somewhat flat foot a kart but you have to ease into the power on a Legend Car.

5. What is the best part of racing?

I think the best part about racing is just being able to express myself and show just how passionate I am about the sport and how it’s been effective in my life. I’ve always struggled to find some acceptance in racing because I don’t have the biggest budget like most of the other racers who show up to places like Charlotte or Atlanta. I show up with what’s in my pocket and if I wreck, I’m out the door, so it’s hard for me to just kind of find that acceptance but I just love the ability to express myself and the struggles that I’ve gone through to get where I am right now.

6. How did you begin competing in eNASCAR?

Well, it’s iRacing, just that virtual racing on your computer. It’s like a game in a sense but it’s a lot more realistic. I bought my first gaming laptop in about 2019 and I was able to get a nice steering wheel for Christmas so I was able to use the compatibility with iRacing. After that I just started diving into it and started to learn more and more about it and I got more engaged and I was able to compete in some of the ENASCAR things that they have on there as well and it’s been helpful with learning things. I can go on there and turn laps in the Legend on the oval for the Summer Shootout and practice. I can always use iRacing as a learning tool to help keep my skills fresh and be able to learn more and more about cars that I may or may not be stepping into.

7. What’s the reasoning behind the 02?

02 was originally 102 and it started when I used to hang out with some of my friends. We would go over to their houses and we would play NASCAR 07 and when we were doing the car customization I was scrolling through my phone and he said, “What number do you want,” and I said, “Just pick a random number." He picked 102 so it just stuck with me after that. After that I started seeing it everywhere, it started becoming my lucky number and I always thought that if I saw it before I got in the race car I would have good luck and I would be able to excel, you know a pre-race ritual. Then when I started stepping up into Legend Cars I was told most of the short tracks around here only allow us to use double-digit numbers because that’s how NASCAR usually does it so 102 became 02.

8. As the Summer Shootout approaches, what is your favorite memory from SSO?

I think my favorite memories from the Summer Shootout have just been the camaraderie really. You walk into the garage at Charlotte and it feels like you’re there, you’re a NASCAR driver. It feels like you’ve got the world in the palm of your hand and you’re just ready to show everyone why you’re there and what you’re willing to do to get to NASCAR and it’s always so great to see the fan turnout. Everyone is super super great with showing their love and their passion for the drivers and then everyone in the garage always seem to be laughing and making jokes with each other and just the all around camaraderie. It’s what makes the Charlotte Summer Sootout a series worth doing and worth competing in.

9. What is your favorite track to race at?

I think my favorite track to race on so far has been Wake County Speedway. It’s been a big big learning curve jumping from say Charlotte which is a very fast track, to Wake County which has some banking and it’s got a lot higher speeds, [and] it’s a lot more taxing on the driver. The fans at Wake County are super amazing. They’re always so great with showing their love for the drivers and I’m always super appreciative of the fans at Wake County Speedway because they’ve always been set on one driver and once you interact with them and you give them so much love and attention they’re like, “Yeah, you’re my favorite driver,” and I love seeing that and it’s always great to be able to share the story and share the passion with fans.

10. If you had to trade places with a celebrity who would it be?

I think I would trade places with Chase Elliott just because he drives for Hendrick Motorsports and that’s a big dream of mine to drive for Hendrick and race for the same team that Jeff Gordon competed for. Racing up in the NASCAR Cup Series is the end goal for me so I would love to trade places with Chase Elliott.

11. What is your advice to younger kids who see you as an inspiration in racing?

Never give up on your dreams. Always stick to what you think is going to put you in a situation to excel in life. There will be those who will try to tear you down, that devil on your shoulder that says you’re not going to make it or it’s not going to happen. Don’t ever listen to any of those distractions. Continue with your career, always strive for excellence and if you believe and commit 100% to your goals, to your dreams, then you will absolutely excel and you will get to where you want to be.

12. What are your goals for the rest of this racing season?

The main goal for this season is to prove to myself that I know I can compete with this racecar. We’ve encountered a lot of situations where it’s been very hard to get in the racecar. I had to postpone any racing last season past September because I had a lot of struggles that I was dealing with. So, I think the goal for this year is obviously to win races, obviously to show everyone we’re competitive but it’s also to just prove to myself and to prove to everyone else that I know that I’m able to be here, I’m qualified to be here and I know that I can win these races.

13. What are your long-term goals in racing?

The end goal is racing with Hendrick Motorsports full-time in the NASCAR Cup Series and I’ve always had that dream. I looked up to Jeff Gordon when I was at a young age and he’s a big inspiration for me. Getting in the race car I’ve always strived to be able to do what I can to continue to progress my career forward and I’ve encountered so many struggles and so many hardships so that dream is always so prevalent when it comes to moving forward in racing.