When Chandler Smith moved up to the Super Late Model ranks at the age of 14, there were the usual questions of whether or not this young Georgia driver could immediately hang tough with the more experienced drivers and teams after a single, yet consistent season in Pro Late Models. In the end, that’s exactly what he did, with the 2016 season culminating with a fifth-place finish in his debut at the Snowball Derby.
After another consistent year in 2017, Smith has turned 2018 into a season of dreams, winning his first major Super Late Model race back in January during CRA SpeedFest at Watermelon Capital Speedway (GA), following that up with his first two wins in ARCA Racing Series competition and a mess of runner-up finishes in other major SLM events including the Winchester 400.
“That’d be pretty cool, I think we got a good shot to win it this year,” Smith told Speed51.com. “We just got to put it all together for this one race. We had some things happen at Winchester when that was our race to win. We didn’t get an opportunity to show what we had at the All-American 400 with the rain out. We didn’t have a good qualifying setup, but I think we would have been good in the race.”
After falling off the lead lap from an early flat tire at Winchester Speedway (IN), Smith ran down eventual Winchester 400 winner Jeff Choquette, chasing the Florida driver in a late-race duel. Smith admits that perhaps he left some aggression off the table, feeling he may have to do more to win in Pensacola, especially knowing that any other driver would do the same.
“To be honest, I think when it comes down to it they don’t care what you did or anything with stuff of that nature. They just want to be there, because they are there to win to the race and they are going to do what they must to win. That’s how I feel about it,” Smith explained.
“There are some things I feel that we could’ve done looking back on it, but I never got to do so. For sure there’s a few things I felt I could do, but we’re still going to race to win.”
While Smith’s talent as a driver has been shown, he gives a lot of credit to crew chief Ricky Turner. But while Smith admits that he leans on Turner for support, Turner expects the same from him.
“We lean on each other. He asks me way too many questions, but I’ll ask him a bunch,” Smith said. “We’ll talk about the setup, putting my ideas and his ideas into it, then kind of go from there. We’ll use each other’s ideas like that and see what we come up with.”
Despite being still so young, Smith knows that should he win this December it will be a memory that will last his entire racing career.
“It would mean the world to me, heck everybody dreams of winning the Snowball Derby, even Kyle Busch has been talking about winning the Snowball Derby and how big it has been.”
As for the magical kiss with the snowball on the trophy, he expects that memory to last quite a while, too.
“That would be the best kiss I would ever have, short of winning the Brickyard one day.”
Race fans unable to attend the 51st Annual Snowball Derby in person will be able to watch a pay-per-view broadcast all week long on Speed51.com. Five-day video tickets can be purchased now for $74.99 ($35 savings) to watch all of the action. Click here to purchase your video ticket today.
The 51st Annual Snowball Derby will take place on Wednesday, November 28 through Sunday, December 2 at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, FL. For more information regarding the event, visit Snowball Central presented by Schaeffer’s Specialized Lubricants.
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com