Team Racing Virginia Profile: Austism can’t slow speedy teen driver Zach Lightfoot

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Richmond Raceway introduced the four members of Team Racing Virginia in June. The four drivers — Chase Burroughs, Timmy “Mini” Tyrrell, Macy Causey, and Zach Lightfoot have been tabbed as the next big things in racing in the Commonwealth.

Zach Lightfoot, 13 of Smithfield, was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome at the age of five. He didn’t speak until he was four and a half years old. For years, his parents tried to learn the right way to handle the diagnosis and its symptoms. For example, Zach had trouble in Walmart when the paging system was active.

“I’d cover my ears,” Lightfoot said. “It was like a megaphone going off right next to your ear.”

Driving a race car isn’t exactly  quiet activity, but when Zach gave it a shot at age nine, something clicked.

“I like the feeling of going fast. I like the vibrations, and I like having to turn the wheel, get on the brake. I like how the car feels. Thta’s what I like,” Lightfoot said. Additionally, Zach says his race helmet muffles the sounds that give him so much trouble, due to his Asperger Syndrome.

His parents were shocked in the best way possible.

“He got in it, and it was just — I mean my jaw hit the ground,” Zach’s father Tom said. “I was like ‘Oh my gosh.'”

Zach told his father right then and there that he wanted to be a race car driver, and he wanted the family’s used car dealership to be his sponsor.

“He said, “I want to drive, and I want you to sponsor me like Lowes sponsors [seven-time NASCAR Cup Series Champion] Jimmie Johnson,'” Tom remembers Zach telling him. “I said OK, but we don’t exactly have Lowes money.”

Starting in GoCarts and moving up to Bandoleros and now to the Legends division, Zach has won races at a shocking rate. Out of 105 lifetime races across all divisions, Zach has 48 victories, according to Tom Lightfoot. Zach just moved up to the Legends division and recently got his first win in that type of car at Carteret Speedway near Emerald Isle on July 5th.

Tom believes this talent and this success in the face of his autism diagnosis is no coincidence.

“He knows where his talent comes from. He knows his talent is on loan from God.”