On a frigid Saturday night at the historic Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville, Zane Smith pulled into victory lane for the first time in an ARCA Racing Series event. The win was the first of any kind for the California kid since he won in a Pro Late Model at New Smyrna Speedway in February, 2016.
“I haven’t done one of these interviews with you for a while now,” joked Smith on Monday afternoon.
In 2015, Zane Smith won five times in Super Late Model competition. He burst onto the scene with a win and the championship at the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at New Smyrna. He won a CARS Tour race at Motor Mile Speedway (VA), and three times with the PASS South division at Kingsport Speedway (TN), Concord Speedway (NC) and South Boston Speedway (VA). He finished second in the Snowball Derby that year and probably could have won the race had he not backed out of the throttle because of smoke from John Hunter Nemechek’s car, allowing Chase Elliott to get by in the final laps.
He was pretty much on top of the world.
Then in 2016 the bad luck started. Mechanical failures, broken parts, incidents not of his making. You name it and it pretty much happened to Zane Smith in 2016.
For a long time, confidence was one thing Smith certainly wasn’t lacking. But as 2016 came to an end and 2017 got started, Smith’s confidence was at an all-time low.
“I think confidence is a big thing to me,” Smith said. “It just always has been since I raced BMX bikes.”
In 2017, he turned his attention to the ARCA Racing Series where he scored seven top five finishes and 11 top-10’s in 14 starts. He started the year off with Venturini Motorsports and ran well, but a switch to MDM Motorsports near the end of last season has completely turned things around for Smith.
“At the end of last year it was like, ‘Okay maybe I am still decent’ I guess you could say,” he said with a laugh. “I ended the season with MDM well. All you can ask for in this deal is a shot.”
He finally got that “shot” on Saturday at the Fairgrounds. Smith led 120 of the 200 laps en route to the victory, taking the lead for the final time from Sheldon Creed with 20 laps to go.
“The Twitter and everything is kind of slowing down a little bit, but it was blowing up for sure right after,” Smith said. “I think I had (more than) 100 texts and stuff. It’s just been a while, but I’ve finally got one.”
While the win took a big weight off of Smith’s shoulders, it may help him in another area as well.
The Short Track Draft presented by PFC Brakes on Speed51.com is coming up shortly. In 2015, Smith appeared in the top 51 of the draft for the first time in the 19th position. Coming off of his banner year in 2015, Smith finished third overall in the 2016 Short Track Draft. After a down year, Smith slotted into the 12th overall position in the 2017 Short Track Draft.
This win may help propel him back towards the top of the list.
“I don’t know (if it will), but I do know that I was reading through some of the tweets and someone said, ‘Zane Smith’s draft stock has gone up,’ so that’s a good sign,” he said. “All I can say is that I hope they haven’t forgotten about me. And if they have, I guess we’ll just have to prove them wrong this year.”
One thing Smith hasn’t forgotten was one of the knocks against him in 2015. His one “con” that was listed was that Smith was, “One of the ‘flat-brimmed’ hat kids from the West Coast, which gives off an air of cockiness.”
On Saturday, Smith was sporting a slight bend in his hat.
“I don’t know if you guys noticed, but I have a curve in my hat now, so I’m not totally cocky anymore,” Smith said with another laugh. “It’s not a full bend, but there’s a curve. I looked in the mirror one day and I said, ‘That does look kind of weird.’”
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Southeast Editor - Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com