(Editor's Note: When this story was originally published, Chandler Smith was entered for CRA SpeedFest 2019. Later that day, his father announced that he wouldn't be competing due to obligations with school. Now, he's once again entered for this weekend's event.)
One year ago, Chandler Smith shook the monkey off his back and scored his first major Super Late Model victory during CRA SpeedFest at Crisp Motorsports Park. Fast forward one year and the now 16-year-old racer will return to the "Watermelon Capital of the World" in Cordele, Georgia looking to score back-to-back wins against some of the top Super Late Model racers in North America.
In 2018, Smith scored his breakthrough victory in spectacular fashion, coming from the rear late in the race and beating one of the country’s best in Bubba Pollard. The win jumpstarted a season that included two victories in the ARCA Racing Series with Venturini Motorsports at Madison International Speedway (WI) and Salem Speedway (IN).
In nine ARCA starts, Smith scored five top-five finishes and finished in the top 10 in every race. He also made ARCA history by winning the pole in his first four career starts and led more laps in ARCA competition than any other driver, despite competing in less than half the races on the schedule.
With a return trip to CRA SpeedFest scheduled for Saturday, January 26, Smith is excited to build on his 2018 success and get the 2019 season started.
“Overall, we had a really good year last year,” Smith told Speed51.com. “It all started off at SpeedFest obviously, where we ended up beating Bubba. That just kind of boosted my confidence for the rest of the year. We ended up getting some wins in ARCA and some better performances in Late Models. I think we’ll be really good this year, even better than we were last year.”
The current entry list for CRA SpeedFest 2019 stands at 28 drivers, including some of Super Late Model racing’s best and 2015 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch.
Smith says there is some pressure with going back to a race as the defending winner, but he is comfortable knowing he has good notes to fall back on from his winning performance.
“It puts some pressure on me,” Smith said. “I want to go back-to-back. But it’s definitely a good thing to know that you have a really good baseline setup for when you go back. The line changed so much and we can take that from last year and apply it to this year.”
After winning last year’s SpeedFest, Smith is confident he has what it takes to be there at the end and capitalize on the opportunity for a win. With the list of competitors entered for this year’s race, he says this race would mean even more if he were able to take home another win to start his 2019 season.
“I’m just going to have to be there at the end and make sure all the fenders are on it," he stated. "It’s going to mean a lot, especially with Kyle and all them guys that are going to be there.”
Race fans unable to make it out to Crisp Motorsports Park for the event on January 26 will be able to watch the ARCA/CRA Super Series Super Late Model feature (200 laps) and JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour feature (100 laps) via a pay-per-view broadcast on Speed51.com. Live video tickets for the event can be purchased today by clicking here.
Saturday's Late Model qualifying, the Wheelman Sportsman Series season opener and the Southern Pro Trucks feature will be streamed live on the Speed51 Network. Fans can watch all of Saturday's action by becoming a premium (monthly or yearly) subscriber of the Speed51 Network. Click here to sign up for your Speed51 Network subscription today.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51.com State Editor (IN & MI)
-Photo credit: Speed51.com