Preparations for the 2018 Short Track Draft presented by PFC Brakes on Speed51.com are underway. The ballot was recently revealed and sent out to a panel of industry experts to determine the top 51 short track racing prospects in North America.
As we prepare for the draft, we’ll be taking a look at a handful of drivers and providing scouting reports just like you would see ahead of the NFL Draft. These scouting reports will take a look at a driver’s on-track performance, as well as other qualities that may make or break their chances of making it to the top levels of NASCAR.
We continue our round of scouting reports today with a look at Zane Smith, who will be looking to make the list of top 51 prospects for the fourth straight year.
Current Level: ARCA Racing Series
Hometown: Huntington Beach, CA
Highest Pick: 3rd (2016)
Anticipated Pick: 6th - 12th
Smith first burst onto the scene in 2015 when he won the Super Late Model championship at New Smyrna Speedway during Florida Speedweeks. That was enough to earn him his first top 20 pick in the Short Track Draft. After a 2015 season that included three PASS South victories, a CARS Tour win and a runner-up finish in the Snowball Derby, Smith was picked third in the 2016 Short Track Draft. However, Smith's stock began to slide during the 2016 season with his only win coming in a Pro Late Model race at New Smyrna Speedway. His winless streak dropped him down to 12th in last year's Short Track Draft, but now he's looking to rise once again after recording his first ARCA win at Nashville.
Rising, Falling or Holding Steady: Rising
It's amazing what a single trip to victory lane can do for a race car driver. The knock on Smith the last two years had been his absence from victory lane. He was able to string together some strong finishes, but couldn't put together everything needed to win a race. That all ended recently when he pulled into ARCA Racing Series victory lane for the first time at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville (TN). With confidence now on his side, there's no doubt that Smith's stock is once again rising in the Short Track Draft.
On-Track Accomplishments: B-
Although he recently scored that ARCA victory, it's still only one victory since February 2016. It's up to the experts voting in this year's Short Track Draft to determine exactly how much stock to put in that single victory.
Outside of victory lane, Smith has been a consistent driver in nearly everything he's driven. He's not a driver that is normally going to tear up equipment, and he certainly doesn't have the reputation of doing so. His five podium finishes, seven top fives and 11 top 10s in 14 ARCA starts last season prove that he's able to keep his car in a position to contend.
Smith has come a long way since the first time he entered the Short Track Draft. At that time, he was a young kid from California wearing a flat-brimmed hat and an attitude that made some in the industry believe he was cocky. He's no longer that same kid.
Smith is one of the most approachable drivers both at and away from the race track, specifically with the media. In most cases, he has a smile on his face and a positive attitude.
And about those flat-brimmed hats? He now wears a slight curve in them.
Sponsor Appeal: A
Smith has a lot of what it takes to win over sponsors. He has the on-track success, the personality and the looks to be the face of a company. He's also a great speaker and has great charisma with the media, something that is very important at the next level.
A few more trips to victory lane would certainly help his case even more and vault him up to an A+ ranking in this category.
Social Media: B+
Overall, Smith is active on all of the major social media outlets. Smith uses his social media account to keep fans current with his latest racing ventures and also to give them a peek inside his personal life. Whether it's winning an off-road race or doing a beach cruiser bike ride on Long Beach with his girlfriend, he keeps fans up to date.
The thing we'd like to see a little bit more of to vault his grade up higher in this category is more updates during race weekends. This sometimes requires a family, friend or public relations representative to help with social media accounts.
Smith will tackle the full 2018 ARCA Racing Series with powerhouse team MDM Motorsports. With confidence on his side and the monkey off his back, one would expect more checkered flags in Smith's future.
-Story by Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor
-Photo credit: Zane Smith Facebook