Last Saturday turned into the biggest day of Chandler Smith’s young racing career. The 15-year-old Super Late Model young gun claimed a home state victory in the 200-lap ARCA/CRA Super Series portion of SpeedFest 2018 at Crisp Motorsports Park (GA). Smith also pocketed a hefty $10,000 paycheck and gained some big momentum for the season ahead.
Now, Smith and the No. 26 team are looking to ride that momentum up the road to South Carolina and Greenville-Pickens Speedway this Saturday, February 3 for the Greenville Meltdown Race. But before Smith can go for another $10,000, he must first finish a week back in the classroom while the team finishes up their other car. Despite the workload, Smith is still feeling the victory high.
“It’s starting to cool down, but I’m still very happy though, obviously,” Smith told Speed51.com. “We’re hard at work. The car we’re running at Greenville this week isn’t the one we won with at SpeedFest; the one we are running is the one we ran at the All American 400 and at the Winchester 400.”
While the first big Super Late Model win is out of the way, this particular race at Greenville holds more unfinished business for Smith after how things went in 2017. He finished second in the race one year ago.
“I think it’s going to be pretty good for us. I know this track pretty well even though I’ve only been there one other time and that was last year for this race,” Smith explained. “We dominated the majority of that race; it just came down to me still learning how to do restarts with a Super Late Model. I spun the tires on a restart and got shuffled all the way back to seventh. Still came back to finish second and I ran down the leader from a straightaway to about four car-lengths by the end of the race.”
Many drivers with much more age and experience than Smith often consider the flat Greenville-Pickens a handful of a track, and in some cases, a personal foe. It’s just the opposite for the youngster.
“I felt like I adapted to it really well. I came behind somebody while we were practicing there and followed them for a lap or two and saw how they were driving into the corner and stuff of that nature,” he stated. “A couple of laps later I was at the top of the charts and I realized it’s actually a fun track. I don’t see what people don’t like about it. I like the track, it’s got good characteristics to it and the new pavement has added some grip to the corners. It’s going to be a really fun race.”
Smith is also happy to see the Meltdown grow so much from its small field of a year ago into another great open show.
“Last year I was kind of bummed there wasn’t as many cars as I thought there would be, they were elsewhere. Actually this year we were planning on going to the Winter Showdown but we didn’t have much money and stuff like that to get there. So we decided to stay here, I’m just three hours from home and we’re going to go race for $10,000.”
Winning SpeedFest was tough enough, especially coming back from a black flag, but Smith knows that winning for a second week in a row will be even tougher.
“It’s going to be harder, especially since Bubba is going to be there. Jeff Choquette is probably going to be there. There’s going to be some stiff competition. I think we’ll be there at the end again.”
As for the incident that brought on the black flag, following contact with Bubba Pollard in lapped traffic while racing for the lead, Pollard was none too pleased with the result afterwards. Going into this week, Smith is not sure what to expect next.
“I don’t know, we’ll see though.”
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-By: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com CT, MA, RI & Long Island Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com