Friday, Aug 12

Ford Performance NASCAR: Zane Smith Looks To Extend Truck Series Points Lead

Zane Smith, driver of the No. 38 Boot Barn F-150 for Front Row Motorsports, goes into this weekend’s inaugural NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Mid-Ohio with a 21-point lead in the standings.  Smith was a guest earlier today on the weekly Ford Performance media Zoom call with motorsports reporters and spoke about his goals with two races remaining in the regular season.

 

ZANE SMITH, No. 38 Boot Barn F-150 – HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR POSITION AND IS IT A TIME TO BE MORE AGGRESSIVE AND GO AFTER THOSE PLAYOFF BONUS POINTS?  “I think our main focus right now is this regular season championship, just with how valuable it is to win it, especially in a case like ourselves where we’ve already had a strong start to the year with three wins.  If I don’t get anymore wins in between now and two races left, and I do win the regular season championship, it’s equivalent to three more wins and those points carry you a long way, so we’ve had a really strong start to the season.  I feel like it says a lot about our team even after our Las Vegas incident with the lugnut, and I feel like if it wasn’t for that I’d have a huge buffer, so to bounce back from that I feel like it says a lot about our team and we’re ready to attack these next two races.”

 

HOW DO YOU PREPARE FOR MID-OHIO THIS WEEKEND?  “I feel like I’ve put in a lot of hours on the Ford sim and I feel like my engineer and I have worked closely and getting our truck better.  The simulator is one thing and real deal is a whole other, but you typically get a general read for it and, as of right now, I’m really happy with how everything has been going and I’m excited to get to Mid-Ohio.  I’ve never been there.  I’ve never seen the place.  I’ve heard mixed opinions on it, but I have enjoyed it so far.  I feel like it should be fun and obviously hoping for another good points day and to leave there hopefully with the trophy and an even bigger points cushion.”

 

DO YOU FEEL WINNING THE REGULAR SEASON CHAMPIONSHIP MAKES MUCH OF A DIFFERENCE IN GETTING TO PHOENIX FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP RACE?  “Yeah, it makes a huge difference.  I’ve been in way worse situations than I am now.  I feel like if you get those extra bonus points it just goes such a long way, but I’ve been in way way worse situation before and having to win in my last possible chance, so I’m happy where we’re at as a team.  We have a new truck being built for the playoffs and obviously some good tracks coming up for us as well, but I feel like we’ve had the speed.  The hard part of the eight-week stretch is over, so the fine detail kind of gets to be put into our trucks as it always is, but even more detail now.  I feel like that’s what really separates people, so I’m super excited to get these playoffs rolling and hopefully we end up in Phoenix again.  How championships are won now is just whoever is the best in Phoenix, so obviously we want to get ourselves locked in as soon as possible and put our biggest preparation into Phoenix if that day comes.”

 

IS THERE A TRACK THAT HELPS BEST PREPARE FOR PHOENIX OR ARE YOU TAKING IT RACE BY RACE?  “I want to take it race by race, but it’s hard for me not to look forward to Kansas in the playoffs just with how our first Kansas went.  I feel like the Fords in general have been really strong and I feel like we’ve done a pretty good job of executing races and staying consistent.  That’s what it takes to get to Phoenix.”

 

YOU WERE FIRST AT COTA AND SECOND AT SONOMA, SO IS THIS WEEKEND ONE YOU’RE LOOKING FORWARD TO?  “Absolutely.  I feel like road courses, I said in COTA, I think it was to Jamie Little but road courses in my opinion is almost, I don’t want to say an off weekend but a fun weekend because if you’re off a little bit I feel like the driver can make the difference in a way, so I like that part of it and I grew up road course racing.  I’ve never seen MId-Ohio, but what I know of it so far on the simulator and watching it, it seems like a lot of fun, so I’m super excited about it.”

 

IT’S A LONG WAY UNTIL THE END OF THE PLAYOFFS IN NOVEMBER.  HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH SUCH A LONG PLAYOFF SEASON?  “I feel like the most difficult part is if you have a bad weekend we have a huge break, I want to say it’s in August, and that part is the hardest part.  I feel like the Xfinity and the Cup, obviously the Cup level is the Cup level, but for Xfinity to compare apples to apples, you could have a bad race to start the beginning of your year and be all right because I think Xfinity still has close to eight or nine races and, for us, if you have one bad race it hurts and so I feel like it’s really tough to make the playoffs in general for the Truck Series and then, like I said about the breaks once the playoffs get going, is really difficult.  The past two years have worked out for me and I enjoy when the playoffs come around just because of the win you’re in mindset.  Executing on peoples’ bad days is a big key to it.  It takes everything to get to Phoenix.  It’s almost a championship in itself getting there and then running the best out of everyone else is a whole other thing, so hopefully that’s the case this year.”

 

WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS FOR MID-OHIO?  “I’m a huge fan of road course racing.  Our track record so far this year on the road courses has been really good with a first at COTA and a second at Sonoma, so a first and a second is a good start.  I feel like at Sonoma I had a shot at the end, but I just wasn’t close enough to Kyle.  I feel like Mid-Ohio from what I hear, talking to Michael McDowell and Joey Hand, it seems like it’s my style of a rhythm type road course and I like that.  I actually feel like a place like COTA, where it’s really heavy braking ares isn’t quite my strong suit, but rhythm places and keeping your momentum up I would say is my strong suit road course-wise, so I can’t wait to get down there.”

WHAT IS YOUR MOST MEMORABLE SPORTS MOMENT?  “It was pretty cool watching Jimmie Johnson win his seventh championship.  Racing is all I’ve ever known.  Besides racing, I’m a huge Tom Brady fan.  I really enjoy seeing his success at such a high level and all the people that talk crap about him and how he shuts them up.  That’s just really cool to see, whether he played football, golf or baseball it don’t matter for me.  Other than that, Jimmie Johnson winning a seventh championship was pretty cool.  Anything racing involved is always cool to watch, especially when the odds really are in their favor.”

 

HOW DID YOU ENJOY YOUR CUP DEBUT AT GATEWAY SUBBING FOR CHRIS BUESCHER?  “When I ran the 17 Cup car it was an experience I’ll never forget.  It was about as last-minute as it could possible get, but I had a ton of fun getting to, I don’t know, I guess to see that and be a part of it.  That was what was so cool.  Ever since you’re a little kid in any professional sport you always want to get to the top level and it’s crazy once you get to do that, especially for your first time, so that was pretty crazy.  Just the atmosphere difference was so much different than anything I’ve ever experienced and obviously the competition level taught me so much.  It was cool to race against those guys that I’d grown up watching, a lot of them, and so hopefully there will be more in the near future.”

 

ARE YOU DOING ANYTHING DIFFERENT THIS YEAR THAN PREVIOUS YEARS?  ALL OF YOUR STATS ARE BETTER.  “I wouldn’t say there’s anything I’m doing different.  I just feel like everything is clicking well.  The communication between myself, crew chief, engineer, our whole team is just really good right now.  I feel like just race car drivers in general, once you have a few years under your belt it just really shows once you’ve been to the places and you’ve gotten to experience so many different things and I feel like that’s the case for me.  A lot of times I feel like I’ve experienced so much, so I can’t imagine 10-plus years racing.  I’m having a ton of fun this year.  It’s been cool to collect some trophies and be in contention to win races pretty much week in and week out and we’ll try to keep it up in these playoffs and see if we can end up in Phoenix.”

ANY ADVICE FOR KIDS OUT THERE WHO LOOK UP TO YOU?  “It’s obviously been super cool to see, especially last year and this year all of the support I’ve gotten from the fan’s side.  I feel like that’s super cool to see.  I try to be as relatable as possible, but as far as advice I’m still figuring myself out.  But as far as racing advice, if you’re trying to make it professionally, I would try to race anything and everything you get your hands on and take advantage of every opportunity you’re given and just roll with the punches and see what it gives you and have fun with it.”

 

CAN YOU TALK MORE ABOUT WHAT JOEY HAND IS HELPING YOU WITH?  “Joey helped some at COTA and I’m not sure if he helped at Sonoma, but I’ve been really impressed with Joey and super thankful for his help that he and Ford have provided us.  I obviously haven’t been able to apply it yet at Mid-Ohio, but his COTA help was tremendous and I just feel like little things he’s showed me at Mid-Ohio has helped me a ton.  I feel like it’s really easy for people that come in, I don’t want to sound bad here, but people who think they’re helping but they don’t understand the stock cars that we race and the things that they say don’t make sense or isn’t necessarily true, but that is not the case with Joey.  With him he is spot on and I feel like the communication between him and I has been great.  As soon as he talks about something, I don’t know if it’s because we come from a karting background or he just has so much road course experience he just knows, but as soon as he talks about something I pick it up right away with him and that’s been really cool.  He’s a super cool guy.  Obviously a freaking wheel man, and hopefully I get to use him some more whenever I get the chance.”

 

IS IT JUST CONVERSATION WHERE HE HELPS OR DO YOU LOOK AT VIDEO?  “What he did for COTA and Mid-Ohio is Ford will send him down to North Carolina for at least a day and he’ll work with me for a couple hours.  I’ll pretty much run for 20 minutes and he’ll have a track map and mark down all these notes of his thoughts and opinions and I feel like that’s what makes him good is because he makes it clear these are his thoughts and his opinion, you don’t have to do it and you can take what you want from it.  I feel like that’s how you should go about things and with Joey I’ve taken about 99 percent of them just because I feel like they’ve all really applied well with what I’m trying to do.  His help in the simulator has been tremendous and hopefully we can apply it on Saturday.”

 

WILL THE REGULAR SEASON TITLE AND 15-POINT BONUS THAT COMES WITH IT MAKE YOU MORE HESITANT TO STICK YOUR NOSE INTO A TIGHT SITUATION WITH THAT THOUGHT IN THE BACK OF YOUR MIND?  “For sure, especially when you take those away from guys they’re gonna be racing in the playoffs a lot more conservative, so you’ve got to take advantage of those situations.  That’s where my head is at.  I’m sure that’s where the other guys’ heads are at that also have pretty good playoff points, so we need to get there first, but a great first step would be winning on Saturday.”

 

IS THERE A PARTICULAR AREA YOU FEEL YOU NEED TO IMPROVE ON AS A TEAM OR IS IT JUST REFINING WHERE YOU ARE?  “I feel like pit road needs to be better.”

 

SO THE MODIFIED PIT STOPS MIGHT PLAY INTO YOUR HAND?  “I feel like it’s not that it’s been completely horrible, it just needs to be more consistent, especially when these playoffs come around just because mistakes don’t get you to Phoenix.  I’ve gotten to experience that and fortunately we’ve been able to execute as late as you could possibly get it done, but I do not want to be a part of that again.  I would like to be able to breathe going into, I think it’s Homestead this year, so that’s our goal.  To be in the playoffs you need to be perfect.  I don’t want it to seem like we’re bashing anyone, but I feel like our pit road needs to be more consistent.”

 

WITH THE MODIFIED PIT STOPS THIS WEEK HOW MUCH EASIER IS IT TO KNOW YOU DON’T HAVE TO MAKE A DECISION ON WHETHER OR NOT TO COME IN BEFORE THE STAGE BREAK?  “I like that.  I feel like it’ll make for an exciting Pocono because we’re all gonna be racing for these stage wins because all the stages are pretty cut and dried.  There’s good and bad to it.  There’s good that way, but if you have a mistake early in the race, typically bad things on a road course you can short pit and still have a good day if you do something or make a mistake.  There is none of that anymore and I’ve heard Mid-Ohio is pretty tough to pass, so minimizing your mistakes are gonna be crucial and just being around at the end and not getting into anyone else’s mess is the key.”

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