Prior to the start of the 2019 season, Sammy Smith had never strapped in behind the wheel of a Late Model. Just two months into the young season, the former Legends Car standout added a big victory and a Pro Late Model championship to his resume Saturday night at New Smyrna Speedway.
Smith, a 14-year-old hailing from the state of Iowa, took the lead from Loris Hezemans late in the race to win the Zack Donatti Memorial and put an exclamation point on his Pro Late Model championship during the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing.
The win was Smith’s second victory of the week in the Anthony Campi Racing No. 81. This win, however, was big. It was his first Pro Late Model win that he earned on the race track, after inheriting Wednesday night’s win in the tech shed as a result of Jeremy Miller’s disqualification for a body infraction.
The win also gave him the Pro Late Model points championship for the 2019 edition of the World Series. Smith had only made one start behind the wheel of a Late Model before the start of the World Series, with that start coming during the season-opening Red Eye event.
Jackson Boone took the lead at the start of the race and was dominant early, leading the first three-quarters of the race. He lost the lead to Hezemans on a restart with 27 laps to go and fell back to third. He eventually made his way back by Hezemans to finish second for the third night in a row.
Hezemans led for nine laps before Sammy Smith took the lead on lap 83. From there, Smith was unchallenged to the end of the race, winning by two seconds. Boone, Hezemans, Todd Stone, and Jamie Skinner rounded out the top five.
“These guys at Anthony Campi Racing gave me a really good car,” Smith told Speed51.com. “We were saving a lot at the beginning and then after that last caution we went hard and pulled away. Our car was good. (Anthony Campi) and my spotter were leading me through that whole race, when to save and go.”
Smith becomes the 13th different Pro Late Model Speedweeks champion in the 13 years of Pro Late Model competition at the World Series. Along with two wins, he showed consistency throughout the week. The Late Model rookie never finished outside the top five in any of the six nights.
Smith’s performance also gave car owner Anthony Campi his first World Series title as an owner. The Anthony Campi Racing team had been fast in recent years with drivers such as Giovanni Bromante and Cole Anderson, but incidents kept them out of the championship picture.
In 2019, ACR provided another strong car for Sammy Smith. He posted two wins, two thirds, a fourth, and a fifth to win the points title.
Jeremy Miller started the week off strong with two wins and looked to be in the catbird seat for the PLM title, but a disqualification for a body violation on Wednesday night handed the points lead to Smith as Miller fell back to third in the standings.
One more night remains in the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing. The Super Late Models and the Florida Modifieds will decide their respective World Series champions to close out Speedweeks on Saturday night.
Race fans can find on-demand coverage of Friday’s racing by visiting Speed51.com’s Trackside Now.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51.com State Editor (IN & MI)
-Photo credit: Speed51.com