In the 30 years of the All American 400 at Tennessee’s Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville, short track racing’s most legendary names have been etched into the record books. Names like Darrell Waltrip, Rusty Wallace, Butch Lindley, Jeff Purvis, Wayne Anderson and Bobby Gill have all gone to victory lane in the “Music City’s” most prestigious racing event.
Each of those drivers won the race at least once between its first edition in 1981 through the year 2000. Two years later, Chandler Smith was born. Now at the age of 13, Smith is looking to put his name alongside that esteemed company with a victory in the October 4 All American 400 Pro Late Model race in Nashville.
In his rookie season of Pro Late Model racing, Smith has one win with the PASS Pro Late Model Series at South Carolina’s Anderson Motor Speedway. In addition to the win he’s finished in the top five three other times. He also scored a top-five finish at the Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville, where he will be racing this weekend.
That top-five finish at the high-banked half-mile back in July has given the eighth-grader plenty of confidence heading into the weekend.
“We’ve been running really well there throughout the year,” Smith said. “My first time up there we finished fourth. Last time we were running well but we had a technical failure and finished about 18th, but I think we’ll be really strong in the All American. I think we are ready to go for it.”
While he wants to see his name on a prestigious list of All American 400 winners, Smith knows there is one aspect of the weekend that is sure to be nerve-wracking. With upwards of 45 drivers expected to attempt the race, just qualifying into the show will be a difficult task.
“Qualifying has me a bit nervous,” he said. “We’ve been struggling in qualifying there. We’ve got it down at most tracks, but just not at this one. But we’ve been really good in the races, so we’ll be ready once we get into the show.”
The Talking Rock, Georgia driver attends class at Jasper Middle School, but he’ll be missing a day on Friday. Missing a day isn’t uncommon for Smith or any other younger racecar driver, but Smith explained that his school is very cooperative as he chases his dream of being a professional race car driver.
“The principal has been really good to us,” said Smith. “When I have to miss a day, like this Friday, he’s nice enough to excuse me. They’ve been really good with us this year.”
At just 13, it would be understandable for Smith to be a bit intimidated to race against drivers such as 2014 NASCAR XFINITY Series champion Chase Elliott, 2014 Snowball Derby and All American 400 winner John Hunter Nemechek, or two-time Daytona 500 champion Sterling Marlin, who just happens to be almost four times as old as Smith, in this year’s All American, but Smith is solely focused on doing his job behind the wheel.
“I just think of them like any other driver out there,” he said. “I love racing with these guys. You learn a lot racing against guys that have experience like that. They’re just another driver out there having fun racing.”
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Mike Thweatt/MTRN Photo