Professional engineer, inventor, and industrialist John Smith Zink was born to John Steele and Swannie Estelle Smith Zink on October 17, 1928, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The elder Zink, a chemist for the Oklahoma Natural Gas Company, in 1929 founded John Zink Company to manufacture oil and gas combustion units.

An avid sportsman, Jack Zink was nationally known for his involvement in race-car design, construction, and competition. His father had sponsored a car in the 1950 and 1951 Indianapolis 500, and the younger Zink followed with his own car in 1952. He drove them, as well, and in 1957 set a stock-auto speed record at Daytona Beach. Entered in every Indy 500 from 1952 to 1967, his cars won the race in 1955 and 1956 and also won thirteen Championship Series races from 1955 to 1966. He was inducted into the Auto Racing Hall of Fame in May 2004.