Few race car drivers have been as highly regarded at such a young age as 16-year-old Chandler Smith. The Georgia native pilots a Toyota on the ARCA Menard’s Series for Venturini Motorsports and was recently chosen in a poll of media members conducted by short track racing website Speed51.com as the No. 1 choice in a draft of short track competitors.
While his age has limited the number of starts he is allowed on the ARCA tour, the Toyota Racing Development driver has already taken two checkered flags and earned six poles in just 12 starts. His win at Madison International Speedway in June of 2018 came at the age of 15.
Despite his youth, Smith’s racing career is an extensive one. Like many young drivers he worked his way through the karting ranks before reaching full bodied stock cars.
“I grew up around racing,” Smith pointed out in an interview with InsideCircleTrack.com. “Every Saturday and Sunday it was on. I was watching the trucks and all that. As a baby I was sitting in front of the TV watching it. Then after I grew up I started thinking ‘You know what, I want to do this’. When I was three years old I told my dad I wanted to do it so here we are now. I’ve been doing this for about thirteen years now.”
At such a young age and with expectations so high, Smith admits there is some pressure. However, he says that he does not allow the expectations of others to impact his performance on the track.
“Yeah, there’s obviously some pressure on but you can’t let that overwhelm you,” Smith declared. “You’ve just got to go out there and do your thing. You can’t go out there and be good every single weekend, but if you go out there and think about there being pressure on you all the time, you’re going to mess up even more. Nobody’s perfect. If we go out there and do our best every weekend and these Venturini guys do their best in the shop and give me a heck of a race car like they did this weekend it will work out.”
While mastering all the aspects of handling a race car on the track is certainly a major part of the learning experience for any driver, Smith insists that the hardest parts of racing as he moves up the ladder are those things that take place off the track.
“Learning the politics of racing is the toughest thing I’ve had to learn, to be completely honest,” the Pickens High School student said. “There’s a lot of politics that go on behind this deal that nobody really knows about. Learning all about that has definitely been a huge learning curve for me.”
Later in the season Smith will compete in four NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series races for Kyle Busch Motorsports. He will also compete in three major Super Late Model events for KBM.
Smith counts making it to such a high level in racing at this early age as one of his top accomplishments to date.
“I would say the biggest success has just been getting to where I am right now. I live in a small town called Jasper, Georgia and there’s nothing really around there and nobody has really done anything significant around there so for me to live in Jasper and make a name for myself and for the town with me now being here is a pretty big deal. It’s pretty cool.”
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association
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