NASCAR Home Tracks

Google+ Twitter Facebook rss

SPLIT DECISION: Germain Chases His NASCAR Dream With Determination

K&N Pro Series rookie embracing the stock-car challenge
By Travis Barrett, Special to NASCARHomeTracks.com
July 10, 2010 - 10:37am

MOORESVILLE, N.C. -- Decisions, decisions. For Zach Germain, there really was no decision to be made.

"Race cars or sell cars?" the Bexley, Ohio, native recalled of weighing his future options late in the summer of 2009. "It was the easiest decision I've ever had to make."

As the son of Steve Germain, who owns Germain Motor Company with his brothers, the 25-year-old Zach got a relatively late start in racing. Despite Germain Motorsports fielding entries in each of NASCAR's top three national series -- Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Trucks -- there was very little pressure on Zach Germain to pursue a racing career.

In fact, he says, there was none.

"It was definitely me putting the pressure on everybody else to get into racing," he said. "The more I've been around it, I've wanted to pursue it more and more."

2010_NKNPS_Feature_Zach_Germain_headshot_200As hard as it is to believe, Zach Germain -- a rookie in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East in 2010 -- is just four years into his career as a driver. He spent parts of three seasons in Legends cars at Columbus Motor Speedway near his hometown, and then in 2009 competed full-time at that track in its Super Late Model division.

Germain said he only got started in racing when his family did. And despite Germain Racing's success in places like the Camping World Truck Series, the organization is still a relative newcomer to NASCAR.

"We're pretty new when you compare us to the other bigger teams in the sport," Germain said. "We got started in NASCAR in 2004, and I didn't start racing myself until 2006.

"It wasn't something that I set out to do when I was younger. But I saw my family getting into NASCAR and that got me thinking. I've always had a fascination with cars from very early on."

And while some of the other drivers he races against in the K&N Pro Series have been racing since they were seven or eight years old, Germain hasn't. Which is not to say he had no experience behind the wheel of a car.

It just wasn't a race car.

"I've been driving cars around the parking lot since I was a kid," Germain said as he started laughing. "When I was 12 years old, I could drive a manual (shift). I wasn't out racing go-karts like Cole Whitt or some of the others, but I was running '100-lap races' on a new car lot.

"Instead of running into walls, I was running into other new cars."

Germain always viewed his future in the family business of selling cars. When he headed off to Miami (Ohio) University, he'd still never turned a competitive lap behind the wheel of a stock car. In fact, it wasn't until he was well on his way to earning a political science degree that he ended up racing Legends.

Germain figured racing would be something fun on the side while he looked at heading to law school, following in the footsteps of his older sister.

In a strange twist of fate, though, a broken hand and wrist in 2008 -- suffered while racing his Legend car -- sidelined Germain for half that season. It was then that he realized how difficult it was to sit on the sidelines and not race.

The next season, he was in a Super Late Model. He finished seventh in Columbus Motor Speedway's standings in 2009. This year, he jumped into the deep end of a racing career with both feet.

"I just knew that if I was really going to do this, I needed to pursue it to a much greater degree than I  was," said Germain, who has one top-10 in five races this season in the No. 24 Germain.com Toyota. "I knew that if I hadn't have poured myself into it, I always would have looked back later on and wondered, 'What if?'"

This year, Germain packed up and moved to Mooresville, N.C., -- the NASCAR hub -- and cleared out a conference room above the race shop where his cars are prepared. That's where he lives now. Every morning, he's up at 6:45 and joins the guys 15 minutes later working on the team’s K&N Series cars.

For a driver sporting a trademark 'faux-hawk' atop his head -- a strip of hair spiked tall along the middle of his head -- image is, well, everything.

"I know that there are some drivers in the past in this sport who haven't had the best, well ..." Germain pauses, choosing his words carefully, perhaps to draw from that political science background. "Let's just say, some teams would rather not have drivers around because they're not the hardest workers in the world.

"I wasn't going to let them say that about me. I don't want people to ever be able to hold it against me that I'm the son of the team owner with all the money, and I'm lackadaisical and not approaching everything like it matters. ... Sometimes I think that makes me work even harder at this."

Germain feels that being older than most traditional rookies gives him a maturity to understand the bigger picture. That maturity also helps with a steep learning curve.

"It's definitely a learning curve," Germain said. "And I know I've made mistakes at a much higher level than I probably should have. Unfortunately, that's the truth -- I just haven't had the seat time at the local tracks over the years. But everyone's been really gracious with me and supportive, and I feel like as long as I don't make the same mistakes twice, they'll continue to help me and be supportive.

"Every type of car I've raced -- going from Legends to Super Late Models, from Super Late Models to the K&N cars -- it's been night and day different. Every lap I get more and more comfortable and learn a lot. I've learned a tremendous amount in five races. Look at Iowa Speedway -- the biggest track I'd ever been on and I wrecked early. But I learned a lot, and I wish I could go back now and try again."

Despite the trials and tribulations, Germain is as committed to racing as ever.

"There is nothing better than racing cars," said Germain, who has no timetable for a graduation from the K&N Pro Series but has an ultimate goal of racing a Camping World Truck. "The rush, the atmosphere, all of it is unbelievable to me.

"I told my dad the other day and he laughed at me, but I'm living the dream. I'm so fortunate to be able to put things on hold for a while and chase my dream like this. I'm just trying to do my part to make that happen."

2010_NKNPS_Feature_Zach_Germain_car_700

Zach Germain brings the Germain Racing name to the NASCAR K&N Pro Series. Getty Images