Ford Performance Notes and Quotes – Zane Smith Gateway Advance Transcript

Ford Performance Notes and Quotes
NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series
Gateway Advance | Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Zane Smith, driver of the No. 38 ARRMA Ford F-150 in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series for Front Row Motorsports, is coming off a 10th-place finish in Monday’s Coca-Cola 600, which represented only his sixth NASCAR Cup Series career start. Smith answered questions from the media about that performance and this weekend’s race at World Wide Technology Raceway.

ZANE SMITH, No. 38 ARRMA Ford F-150 – HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE MONDAY’S PERFORMANCE AND DO YOU CONSIDER IT A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION? “Yes, definitely. Yes on all of those. Obviously, a very long race, so I had prepared pretty much this whole month of just trying to get ready for it and at the end of the Cup races I kind of battled with some seat insert issues, of just kind of being uncomfortable towards the end of the race, so we put some attention on that and I felt great after. I was happy about the training side of things and then on the performance side we got our car better every single stop and I just kind of learned and learned and learned as the race went on. Our goal initially was just trying to make it to the end on the lead lap, and then I was passing and running with some really good guys and then they would get really good track position and compete up front, so I knew that we just needed to be aggressive on restarts and try to get what we could and we were able to do so and get our car to fire off a little bit better than the beginning of the race. We found a happy medium to where we’d fall off and we came home with a top 10 finish. I was super excited with that, obviously. Everyone is really good on Sunday and the Coke 600 is a crown jewel event. I’ve always enjoyed going to Charlotte and it was a fun weekend.”

CAN YOU WALK US THROUGH A LAP AROUND GATEWAY AND WHAT DO YOU RECALL ABOUT MAKING YOUR CUP DEBUT THERE A YEAR AGO? “Gateway is a really fun place just to make laps at, so it’s a fun racetrack. On the harder side of things to race at just passing-wise and what-not. I think being able to put a good lap down at Gateway really comes in clutch in the race, especially on the truck side just because of how you don’t have a whole lot of time on the truck side. On the Cup side, you have plenty of time to learn and it was a good place, I thought, to make your debut and I feel like I got to experience the Cup cars in between a short track and a mile-and-a-half in a way, and I was shifting at both ends, so kind of got used to some of the shifting even though on the truck side we’re going from fourth to third, most of the guys are in one and two. The Cup car is just so much different than anything I think anyone has ever really raced, so that was a fun weekend looking back to last year when I did get to make that debut on such short notice. I was happy with our run there. I think we finished 17th, but learned so much throughout that day. And then on the truck side, I feel like Gateway has always been one of my best tracks, but I have really struggled to just put together a clean race and finish one off ever since my debut there on the truck side. Hopefully, just have a clean Saturday and see if we could have some good track position there at the end and go for a win and I’m pretty sure it’s a Triple Truck Challenge race, so some extra cash as well.”

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST THING YOU’VE LEARNED IN CUP SO FAR THIS YEAR? “We all know that Sunday is the best of the best, but I just feel like it’s not talked about enough on how good those guys really are from first to last pretty much. Everyone is just so good, so everyone is really hard to pass. It’s just hard racing for 600 miles, so it’s just kind of adapting to that and obviously the longer races and that one was extremely long, but I felt great after. I felt like I could go for another, which was surprising looking back at my other Cup races that I was just uncomfortable at at the end of them. They honestly race in a way similar to trucks, just the blocking and the dirty air is multiplied by a little bit, but they’re definitely a lot of fun and that was my first mile-and-a-half in a Cup car. Other than that I’ve just done short tracks and superspeedways and it’s definitely the most fun I’ve had in one, so my next one is on a road course, so road courses are kind of home for me and I hear good things about the Cup car on road courses nowadays, so looking forward to that one.”

WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT SONOMA? “One, it’s at home for me. It’s a different piece of California, but it’s cool to get back to the home state and really just road courses in general. I’m so excited during the whole week of whenever it’s a road course race. I just really enjoy road course racing, especially in stock cars and Sonoma is a great racetrack. I had a lot of fun there in the truck and looking forward to a Cup car there.”

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE WHAT THIS LAST YEAR HAS BEEN LIKE? “It’s been crazy. Really, I had no offseason and then rolling right into this year. It’s kind of been like deja vu of winning Daytona again and COTA, so it’s definitely had its ups and downs throughout this year, just getting caught up in some things that are my fault, some things where we’re competing for another win and inches away and getting caught up in someone else’s mess on the truck side. And then had some things really not go my way at all on the Cup side starting out, so to have that good run at the Coke 600 really, I think, just fueled myself back up and everyone at FRM. It’s been a rough three weeks on the truck side. Darlington for one, having engine issues, and then kind of rebound at North Wilkesboro and had such a good truck after starting in the back and driving up to second and then me speeding on pit road during that final stop frustrated me even more. Then we went into Charlotte and I knew how important clean air was on the truck and we had a parts failure of gear oils spraying the rear tires running the truck race. I’m not blaming that on why I spun out, but I don’t think that really helped. We got to third in the truck race and spun out in front of the field and got more damage, so my truck guys have been working their butts off trying to fix all these trucks and trying to stay competitive. That Coke 600 run put our confidence back where it needs to be and firing everyone back up. We’ve got one more on the truck side until we get a little break, and it’ll be great that I just had that good run on the Cup side and only have one week off and then back in it at Sonoma.”

DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOUR PLANS ARE FOR NEXT YEAR AND DO YOU FEEL YOU ARE READY TO GO TO THE CUP SERIES FULL-TIME IF GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY? “Yeah, I do. I kind of regret not going there this year in a way, but, yeah, I do think I am ready. I feel like just putting myself racing on Sunday has taught me so much and has gotten me used to the longer races, but, no, I don’t have anything in place yet for next year. There are some things we’re working on for this year. We’ll see what happens.”

YOU STAYED OUT ON OLD TIRES AND IT WORKED OUT, BUT HOW MUCH DID THAT HELP IN TERMS OF UNDERSTANDING THESE NEXT GEN CARS? “I mean, talk about feeding me to the wolves. I felt like we were definitely from the start of the race had a top 20 car and then the second half of the race we had a top 15 car and then that final half I felt like had a top 10 car. Really, the top five were just faster than me in a couple of sections, but consistently I would say. Then, I don’t know what I really thought. I wasn’t too confident when I don’t know how many there were to go, I think there was like 40 to go, and we stayed out and I was gonna be the leader on my first mile-and-a-half and sixth Cup start, holding off two Hendrick cars that have obviously been fast all year. I knew that was gonna be a handful and just didn’t want to embarrass myself of wrecking in front of the field or getting wrecked or wrecking myself or whatever it may be. Fortunately, I was able to hold onto that track position as much as I could, and then those cautions fell and we pitted with three others and started 22nd. I was pretty frustrated then because we had a solid day and I knew we were better than 22nd. I didn’t want to get trapped back three, so I just went to the fence and I think I got eight guys in one lap and then that built me some time to get a few more and just get us track position. That’s just so much of what the Cup side is. You really don’t know who is great until you get them out front, so I guess it was cool to experience the front row for 500 to 1,000 feet maybe. It was short lived, but really cool to run up there.”

HOW HAS IT BEEN BETWEEN YOU AND TODD WITH SHARING THE 38 CUP RIDE? “It’s definitely a hard position FRM is in where they have three of us and two Cup seats, so we’re all aware of the situation and all understand how this racing world works. Todd is a great friend of mine. That’s the worst about our job is we all live the same life and we kind of all hang out with each other. We grew up racing K&N, ARCA, Truck, Xfinity and then eventually when it’s time to get to Cup there’s only so many seats, and when you hang out with people that are winning races, you guys are probably both gonna end up there or have a shot to one day. Unfortunately, our situation has kind of fallen in that boat, but we try to handle it the best we can. I didn’t intend on it being this way. It’s tough for everyone on the 38 team to share two drivers, especially with a rookie crew chief. It’s not only hard on Todd, I think it’s hard on that whole group.”

DO YOU STILL FEEL LIKE THE DEFENDING TRUCK CHAMPION? “I don’t go into it really like that. I know what myself and my team are capable of on the truck side. It’s just kind of unfortunate that circumstances cost us a few possible race wins and good finishes and a lot of points over the past three weeks, but we’re still digging and trying to get some momentum back. It would be a different story if we just flat-out sucked and we were wrecking trucks, but we’re at least going for it and that’s my intention of how I went into it this year of me hoping it’s my last year in truck. My full focus was trophies are the only thing that matters and unfortunately that’s kind of cost me some points and some wrecked trucks. It’s probably time to tone it back some and focus on points and just get some good runs in general.”

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS YOU’RE WORKING ON FOR THIS YEAR? WOULD IT BE WITH RICK WARE RACING? “I don’t think I’m gonna be doing anymore races for Rick Ware Racing. It was a great learning day at Martinsville and experiencing Martinsville. What I meant by that is I’m just trying to race more in general. That was kind of my plan this year, whether it be on the IMSA side like we did at the beginning of the year. Obviously, getting my feet wet in the Cup Series and hopefully some Xfinity races or something.”

LAST YEAR AT GATEWAY IT WAS A LAST-MINUTE SITUATION TO GET YOU IN THE 17 CAR. DID THAT JUMPSTART ANYTHING TOWARD MOVING MORE TOWARDS CUP? “I definitely think any Cup opportunity that you get, and that one that I got for RFK Racing was a huge opportunity. I was super thankful for that, so I think that run we had got my stock up and then, honestly, getting the Truck championship helped that rise as well. I think just time in the Cup car is so important and I think once that new Cup car came out, people realized that you don’t have to do the route of Truck, Xfinity, Cup. The Cup car is, like I said, so far apart from anything, though it does kind of race like a truck, so I don’t think you need to go that round of Truck, Xfinity, Cup. I think a lot of people would agree with me on that, so I’m happy for these Cup starts that I’m getting. I’m happy for that one that I got last year at a place like Gateway. I think every time that you’re in one you learn a lot.”

IF YOU GET IN SOME XFINITY RACES, WHAT IS THE BENEFIT OF THAT? “Just back to racing more. I think Xfinity is a little bit longer race. I think the more things you race and the more often you race, the better race car driver you’re gonna be. If there are any people out there that think, ‘What would he do in Xfinity?’ Hopefully, we could have a good run on the Xfinity side and put that to bed and move forward, but I don’t have any intentions of thinking, ‘Man, I’ve got to go Xfinty racing before Cup.’”

HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH THE MENTAL SIDE OF DRIVING ON THE CUP SIDE? “Definitely, and I think those good runs you have, and fortunately I was just able to experience one, which, that was my goal to kind of run up closer to the front with those guys and just see how it is. I think that just builds confidence of knowing that, ‘Hey, we can run up here.’ That was super important. Sunday just brings a whole different atmosphere in general of way more people. You’ve now made it, so you’re in position where people below you are trying to take your job now, and so it’s definitely a lot more pressure but I think it’s just like any professional sport. It’s really cut throat and if you belong, you belong.”

DID YOU KNOW IT WAS A CUT THROAT TYPE OF BUSINESS OR WERE YOU TOLD THAT? “I knew it and you at least hear about it, but it’s a whole other thing to experience it. So, typically if you experience it, it’s a really good thing – like you’re doing a good job. Obviously, I’m not full-time yet, so I’m fighting to be full-time and earn a good Cup ride and that’s our goal.”

DO ALL OF YOU YOUNG GUYS GET ALONG WITH EACH OTHER WHEN YOU’RE ALL TRYING TO ACHIEVE THE SAME GOAL OF A FULL-TIME CUP RIDE? “Yeah. It’s a very odd time in the sport. There are a lot of people reaching the end of their road on the Cup side, so there’s a lot of young drivers that are trying to fill those seats, so that’s why I think you see a lot of aggressive racing. Team owners, sponsors, everyone really only cares about race wins it seems like, so we’re just trying to put ourselves in position to capture these race wins. That’s where our focus has been to hopefully end up on Sunday.”

HOW MUCH ARE YOU ABLE TO PREPARE IN THE NEXT GEN CAR? “For the previous Cup races, I actually put a lot of sim time in, but for Charlotte I probably only had 30 minutes to an hour, so that’s kind of been my seat time. But, leaning on my teammates and other drivers in general and just looking back at past notes of what they had last year is kind of what I went through and gone about it. That’s my plan for Sonoma. Yes, it’s a completely different car, but it’s still road course racing, so hopefully my background in road course racing can still apply to the Next Gen. That’s how we’ll go about it.”

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of


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