A Career That's Off to the Races | Butler Stories

A Career That's Off to the Races

By Elizabeth Duis '20

College of Communication

Name: Zach Horrall
Hometown: Vincennes, IN
Major(s): Journalism, Spanish minor
Anticipated Grad Date: Spring 2019
Career Goals: Become a NASCAR reporter; travel and cover motor sports

 

Maybe it’s the sound. Maybe it’s the crowd. Maybe it’s the speed. Maybe it’s all of the above. Zach Horrall loves racing and hopes to make a career of it. But his route to victory in the sport isn’t exactly what you’d expect.

Growing up only two hours south of Indianapolis, Zach Horrall watched countless NASCAR, stock, and Indy car races. Frequent trips to the city fueled Zach’s desire to become a part of the racing community. This passion quickly merged with his talent for writing, and he began to aspire towards sports journalism. When the time came to make a college decision, Zach knew exactly where he wanted to be.

“There are two major racing hubs: Charlotte, North Carolina and Indianapolis,” Zach explained. “From there, I felt like Butler was the best school in Indy.”

Zach describes Butler’s caring community as plainly evident from his first visit. Small details like someone going out of their way to hold a door or an advisor’s genuine interest in him contributed to Zach’s overall view of Butler as a place where he could succeed.

During Zach’s first and second years, Butler’s sports media program owned and operated a website. After convincing the director to let him write for the website, Zach handled all the racing coverage. Covering one race in particular would change the course of his career.

While covering the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2016, Zach ran into his sports journalism idol Marty Smith. Smith was a general assignment reporter for ESPN who was also covering the race. Zach promptly introduced himself and explained his passion for sports journalism. It was then that Smith pointed to IndyStar’s table of employees and prompted Zach to reach out.

Believing he had plenty of time, Zach continued his coverage of the race in the hopes of approaching IndyStar later in the day. At the conclusion of the race, Zach looked back to see the table packed up and the employees about to leave. Practically running so as not to miss the chance, Zach approached the group, introduced himself, and inquired about a writing position.

Two years later, Zach Horrall is about to celebrate his second anniversary at The Indianapolis Star. This same interest in racing has transformed into a sports writing internship at one of the largest news sources in the state. His involvement with IndyStar began in a sports clerk role covering high school sports and has grown into the coverage of major motor sporting events such as the 2017 U.S. Nationals and this past spring’s Indy 500. A few of his stories have also been picked up by USA Today.

Zach attributes much of his academic and professional development to journalism classes and his time with the Butler Collegian. This experience provided real-world exposure that allowed Zach to learn in a hands-on setting. He will use these real-world lessons to serve as the Digital Managing Editor for the Collegian this upcoming academic year.

Moving forward, this successful senior aspires to continue working in racing, specifically as a NASCAR reporter. Zach maintains that as long as he can remain part of the racing community, he will be content and excited to go to work.

“I’m a very optimistic, happy-go-lucky person, and I want to maintain that attitude. I know the only way for me to do that is to do something I love,” Zach explained. “I want to be a person who says ‘I don’t have to go to work, I get to go to work.’”

This enthusiasm springs from a desire to share live sports with people. Not everyone has the ability to see a race, and Zach’s aim is to make these quick getaways accessible for everyone. He believes that everyone deserves the getaway from everyday stresses that sports can provide.

“Even if it’s only for a two or three hour race, everyone deserves that break from time to time,” Zach shared. “Racing isn’t the most popular thing in the world, but I want to show people why I love it and why it’s so interesting.”

To aspiring writers, Zach would like them to realize that it is possible to pursue a passion. Though covering a NASCAR race might not often be associated with journalism, it’s important to know yourself and explore the variety of positions available.

“The way that I’ve lived my life is to never take ‘no’ for an answer and never be afraid. If I was afraid to talk to my idol Marty Smith, I wouldn’t be where I am right now,” Zach explained. “You have to take chances because if you don’t, you will never meet your full potential.”

A Career That's Off to the Races

Zach Horrall's route to victory in racing isn’t exactly what you’d expect.