It’s been a meteoric season and a half in the ARCA Menards Series for seventeen-year-old Chandler Smith (No. 20 Craftsman/828 Logistics Toyota). The Talking Rock, Georgia native made his series debut at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville in March 2018 and, at the age of 15, started a streak of four consecutive General Tire Pole Awards to start his career. No other driver in the modern era has ever started from the pole in his or her first four starts. Smith put a period on that record-setting streak by claiming his first career win in his fourth start at Madison.
Later in the season, he visited victory lane for the second time. Smith decimated the field at Salem Speedway, leading 199 of the race’s 200 laps, only losing the lead for a singular lap on pit road because his pit stall was just before the start/finish line.
Smith’s dominance at Salem was indicative of his performances throughout the entire season. Despite racing in just nine of the 20 races in 2018, Smith led 763 laps, 262 more than series champion Sheldon Creed. He tied Creed for the most pole awards, led the series in average start (3.3), was second to Creed in average finish (4.3), and finished among the top ten in every race he started.
That dominance has grown in 2019.
Smith has won half of his eight starts so far this season. His wins at Toledo Speedway, Madison International Speedway, Elko Speedway and Iowa Speedway have all come in dominant fashion. He’s led laps in seven of those eight starts and has accumulated 658 laps at the front of the field, 225 more than current series championship leader and Venturini Motorsports teammate Michael Self (No. 25 Sinclair Lubricants Toyota). Smith has bettered his average finish as well, from 4.3 to 3.9, an improvement that is even more impressive when his first career DNF – a mechanical failure at WWT Raceway – is considered.
The ARCA Menards Series rules prohibit drivers under 18 years of age to race at most tracks over one mile in length. The two exceptions to that rule are WWT Raceway, where Smith had that DNF, and Pocono Raceway. Smith was able to participate in the series’ open test at Pocono earlier in the season despite not meeting the 17-year-old limit to race at the unique triangular speedway. Having turned 17 in June, just a few weeks after that open test session, Smith is ready to make his race debut at The Tricky Triangle.
Missing that May race was a big disappointment to Smith, whose Venturini Motorsports team leads the series owner’s points standings. With driver Harrison Burton at the wheel, the No. 20 team won at Daytona and has collected two other top-five finishes at Charlotte and Chicagoland. Burton finished sixth earlier in the season at Pocono, a finish Smith believes he can better this time around.
“It was a real bummer to not be able to race at Pocono earlier in the season,” Smith said. “I thought we had the best car there. We were fast right away and it gives me a lot of confidence going back to race there for the first time.”
The test session in May, which was abbreviated by inclement weather, was a huge help for Smith as he attempts to win in his debut event at the track.
“This biggest thing I learned in the test is discipline,” he said. “The main thing is going to be passing. We were extremely strong when we went there. We all felt like if we raced, we were going to whoop the field. The main thing is being able to race around the aero and getting used to that much side force.”
Smith is becoming accustomed to adding new tracks and new experiences to his resume. In addition to doing so in the ARCA Menards Series, Smith is racing a limited schedule in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series for Kyle Busch Motorsports. Smith’s propensity for leading laps has carried over to the Trucks, too. In his first start with KBM at Iowa Speedway, Smith led the first 55 laps on his way to an eighth-place finish. He didn’t lead laps in his second start at WWT Raceway but earned his first top-five finish when he crossed the line in fourth. Smith has two more Truck starts later in the season.
“We have Bristol later in the summer and then Phoenix at the end of the season,” he said. “It’s been great to be competitive right away. KBM has the best equipment in the series and I think we’ll have a chance to win one or both of those races. It’s just like in the ARCA car, I know the equipment is capable of winning, I just have to do my job.”
ARCA Menards Series practice at Pocono Raceway starts at 9 am ET with General Tire Pole Qualifying set for 1:35 pm ET and the green flag on the FORTS USA 150 set to fly at 4 pm ET. The race will be televised live flag to flag on FS1. ARCARacing.com will have live timing & scoring, live user chat, and live track updates for registered users at ARCARacing.com. New users can register for free with a valid email address at ARCARacing.com/login. For ticket information please visit PoconoRaceway.com.
-ARCA Menards Series Press Release
-Photo credit: Speed51.com photo