Indiana teen and race car driver Zachary Tinkle’s 2021 season was speeding along last June when his beloved father’s stroke nearly brought his career to a screeching halt.
The professional stock car driver, then 18 and racing in the JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour, needed to cope with the stress of his dad being hospitalized and find a way to keep racing after his family-funded team had to shut down.
Friends and fans rallied. Over 150 people donated to a GoFundMe page that quickly raised over $13,000 for Tinkle to compete in the next race at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway.
“That helped keep me racing the rest of the year,” Tinkle told The Dog People. “And then Wayne Peterson called after he heard what happened, and he offered to let me drive his car at Berlin [Raceway in Grand Rapids, Michigan].”
Tinkle gratefully accepted and Peterson, a veteran NASCAR racer and owner of the team Wayne Peterson Motorsports, kept inviting Tinkle to race through the rest of the season. It’s a collaboration that’s continuing: Tinkle is racing this year for Wayne Peterson Motorsports in car 06 in the 2022 ARCA Menards Series—entry level of NASCAR for the rising star.
Racing for Rescues
Happily, Tinkle’s father recovered and is back to work. So as the start of this racing season approached, Tinkle and his parents wanted to find a way to express their gratitude for the help they received during such a tumultuous time.
“We’d been blessed by so many people,” Tinkle said. “We were looking at, ‘How do we give back?’”
Their wheels started turning and they came to an easy decision: animal rescue. Many of the family’s pets over the years have been rescues—including their current Pug, Zuzu LaRue.
Zuzu and over 100 other dogs arrived in the United States after being rescued from a dog meat market in China. The “quirky” Pug seemed to gravitate to Tinkle and his parents when they met in early 2021 at Kentuckiana Pug Rescue, and “we knew then that she was the one,” he recalled.
Plus, Tinkle’s mom, Laurren Darr, has strong ties to the pet community. She’s the author of numerous books about dogs, including “Pug Bella, The Pit Pet Fashionista,” and is the founder of the Pet Fashion Guild (Zuzu often sports haute couture by prominent pet fashion designers, such as Ada Nieves). Out of these interests, “Racing for Rescues” was born.
This season as part of his new initiative, Tinkle is loading up the family’s trailer with pet supplies and donating them to rescue organizations in many of the cities where he races. Fans donate goods at four locations in Indiana, such as food, bedding, toys, and other “wish list” items or make financial donations online.
Tinkle kicked off the project in February with a donation to Halifax Humane Society during a test at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida.
“I get to incorporate both of my passions: driving race cars as fast as possible like a madman, and helping out animal rescues,” he said. “I love it.”
Speeding for a Good Cause
To help determine the beneficiaries in each city, Tinkle partnered with the nonprofit Grateful Rescue & Sanctuary in Muncie, Indiana. President Pamela Terhune founded the organization in 2017 after visiting an overcrowded, cramped municipal shelter.
“I visited a shelter to adopt a dog and it was very upsetting to see the distress and the small quarters that they were being kept in,” she told The Dog People. “It was just so heartbreaking to see these dogs in these tiny cages that were not much bigger than them.”
After adopting one dog—and going back the next day for a Coonhound she couldn’t stop worrying about—she converted her 22-acre property into Grateful Rescue, where dogs play outside all day long and sleep in large rooms with their own beds.
Grateful Rescue recently took in a puppy mill survivor named Paisley and her 11 puppies. The puppies have all been adopted into loving forever homes, and Terhune herself permanently adopted Paisley.
Getting Rescue Pets Over the Finish Line
Grateful Rescue has saved over 300 dogs, and Terhune loves helping save even more by researching shelters and rescues to benefit from “Racing for Rescues” in cities where Tinkle races. She looks for organizations that seem committed to making a difference, often in creative ways.
“Every animal that’s homeless needs help,” she said. “We’re all in this together.”
She joined Tinkle at Halifax Humane Society for the first “Racing for Rescues” donation of the tour and was impressed by all of the volunteers walking dogs, and amenities like a gift shop and a veterinarian offering services to help get potential adopters through the door.
Donations included food, cash, cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, and a special request from the group’s wish list: peanut butter. For an enrichment activity, the team spreads peanut butter inside of Frisbees hung outside the dogs’ kennels so they can enjoy licking off the tasty spread.
“Everybody seemed happy,” she said.
Of course, having a race car driver like Zachary Tinkle support animal rescue also helps homeless pets by raising awareness of the need to help save animals across the country, she noted.
“The animal rescue world is an amazing thing,” Terhune said. “The more we all join in together and the more awareness we can raise about how much help is needed, the better.”
For more information or to donate to Racing for Rescues, visit: racingforrescues.org
To learn more about Grateful Rescue, visit: gratefulrescue.org