It was the story that stole all the headlines in the midst of the busiest week in Northeast Dirt Modified racing last October, when a working man won the “Working Man’s Race” against all odds. That man was Rusty Smith, and the track was Afton Motorsports Park, a track which he has called home since 2016 after transitioning from a long tenure on asphalt to the clay.
Now, nearly nine months later, the working man will return to his home track this Wednesday night hoping to strike gold once again against the best that the Short Track Super Series has to offer.
Heading into the mid-week race, just mentioning his win last fall is more than enough to pump up Smith’s eagerness to go for two straight Short Track Super Series wins on the old oval just off I-88.
“By far, I still get goosebumps when anyone talks about it. Anytime you can go to a race and there’s 60 cars there, like there was that day, and you just qualify into the show, you’ve had a good day,” Smith told Speed51.com.
“I know guys like Stewart Friesen or Brett Hearn might not feel that way. But to do that is a victory, let alone to be, in my opinion after watching the video, the dominant car out of those 60 cars. It’s a pretty overwhelming feeling. It still is today, we still got the check and trophy here in the garage.”
But it was just a week ago that Smith and the rest of the weekly roster that competes at Afton on Fridays were a little down after seemingly battling the track, rather than each other all season long. After much toil, the crew at Afton finally hit pay dirt last Friday. That has Smith excited for what he thinks could be one of the best shows the home fans will see all year.
“It’s been tough to race at this year, but for the first time this season the track widened out on Friday night a little bit,” Smith explained. “We were able to go closer to the walls on the straightaways, which we hadn’t been able to do all season. We can run a racing line down the straights that allows us to get some passing done the other night. In my opinion if they leave it alone, other than watering it, hopefully we’ll have a two-groove track. Since we left last Friday I’m really looking forward to what’s coming up Wednesday.”
Currently Smith has one win in 2018 and sits third in track points at Afton, but he felt he hasn’t had the chance to see what his car can do until last Friday. Despite coming up short of the top step on the podium, he has a lot of confidence coming off the overall performance of the night.
“After our big win last year at the end of the season, we retooled up and we actually put together a brand-new car to take over there this year. We got all our ducks in a row to compete for a championship and run with all those guys. It’s been tough with the track. But last week started in the sixth spot and got shuffled back to tenth right off the bat. But we were able to work our way back up to third and finish there, and we got there by running down two guys that were a straightaway ahead and I reeled them in.”
Smith is a driver that believes in the home advantage, no matter how tough the competition on the touring side. All that said, he is sure he can replicate that amazing October night this Wednesday.
“I’m feeling like we got everything we need to go for another one. I like running with the (Short Track Super) Series. My schedule the last two years since changing to dirt has been grounded. I’m running locally with the shop and my boy racing. We don’t have a lot of time to travel and run against these big guys, but by far if they come to your home track, I’m up for the challenge. It was just like that running asphalt, when the big guys come in to your track, it’s your time to shine. We did it last year and hope to do it Wednesday.”
Race fans unable to make it to Afton Motorsports Park for the Short Track Super Series Modifieds and Crate 602 Sportsman, can see the night’s racing for free on Speed51.com as a premium subscriber to the Speed51 Network.
-By: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com / MoJo Photos