In the Hot Seat with Zane Smith

Chiefly, Zane Smith expressed confidence with his title chances this year. (Photo: Luis Torres | The Podium Finish)

Chiefly, Zane Smith expressed confidence with his title chances this year. (Photo: Luis Torres | The Podium Finish)

Overall, Zane Smith possesses superstar talents in his second NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season. As seen with the 22-year-old Huntington Beach, Calif. native, he’s steady, cool under pressure and determined.

Moreover, Zane Smith continually gains fans with his remarkable, inspirational story. In this case, Smith worked ardently up the racing ladder without a pool of money.

Even so, Zane Smith proved himself in BMX, go-karts, legend cars and late models. Surely, that tenacity and Tom Brady-like hunger for success continually serves Smith well today.

Likewise, Smith showcases his raw driving skills for GMS Racing’s No. 21 Chevy Silverado entry. Certainly, Smith, who won rookie honors last year, earned emotional wins at Michigan and Dover.

Conversely, while both tracks did not return for 2021, Smith clinched his second consecutive Playoff berth. All things considered, Smith and crew chief Kevin “Bono” Manion set their sights on this year’s title.

Ahead of the Truck Playoff opener at Gateway on Friday night (August 20), I caught up with Smith. Without further ado, let’s get “In the Hot Seat with Zane Smith” here on The Podium Finish!

Rob Tiongson : Zane, you have the fifth best average finish among the full time regular drivers. What have you and crew chief Bono Manion worked on in terms of getting back up into the picture versus your performance last year?

In particular, Zane Smith looks for a one position gain from last season's runner up points finish. (Photo: Sean Folsom | The Podium Finish)

In particular, Zane Smith looks for a one position gain from last season’s runner up points finish. (Photo: Sean Folsom | The Podium Finish)

Zane Smith : We’ve been working really hard, if not anything, harder. It’s just, I swear, it’s a lot of things that just haven’t been clicking with luck. And I can’t stand using that. But that’s the case. It’s a lot of things that have happened to us this year, which are so unexpected and things that just don’t happen. So hopefully, we got all those bugs worked out and we’re really firing on all cylinders here going into the playoffs.

Tiongson : You tend to be one of the most physically fit drivers but three of the four playoff truck races will be held in the nighttime with one of them in the daytime, but it’s the late summer. With these grueling conditions expected from here to the Round of 8, how have you been preparing for these conditions?

Smith : Yeah, I feel like all preparation goes through Josh Wise and Scott Speed. Luckily, Chevrolet and GMS allows us to work with them and they really have gotten me into so much better shape in my mind and obviously my body. And so, the hotter the better for me. I really love racing in grueling races like that to really see what driver stands out in that case.

Tiongson : How do you feel about your number 21 team’s performance in terms of what you like so far and what you feel like you guys can improve upon to contend for wins and top fives?

Notably, Zane Smith is crazy for his Chevrolet. (Photo: Luis Torres | The Podium Finish)

Notably, Zane Smith is crazy for his Chevrolet. (Photo: Luis Torres | The Podium Finish)

Smith : Yeah, I feel like we definitely have improved all across the board. I feel like we’re. …I don’t know. It’s hard to say honestly. I feel like these first few tracks have not been the best for us.

I feel like I’ve had some good runs and just things that have happened to us like initially the first Daytona. Daytona’s Daytona. But, we had issues at the beginning of the race. We had a shot of winning it and got taken out.

And then at the Daytona road course, I messed up on lap one. I drove back up there and got wrecked again. And then we went to Atlanta and ran I thought pretty good, top six, top five pretty much all day, I felt. And at Bristol dirt, it went surprisingly actually pretty good. Oh yeah. Forgot about Vegas. Vegas was pretty much where we kind of turned it around after the Daytona road course.

Yeah, I mean, I don’t know. I just kind of run around fourth to sixth, I’d say. And I feel like the KBM trucks are a little bit better than us at certain places. So, like I said, I feel like we’ll mostly get a better read on it.

Tiongson : You and the No. 21 team face heavy competition this year. Brett Moffit’s no longer with GMS. And of course, you’ve got John Hunter Nemechek in that No. 4 truck. So, there’s a lot more folks for the championship and race wins. But, the GMS quartet are consistent. With all the experience and the drivers around y’all, you guys will find a way to get things turned around.

You touched upon it a little bit about the Bristol dirt race and how you guys came away with a really solid finish. And I saw earlier before the season began, that you prepared for that by testing in a dirt modified car. How was that experience like in terms of getting used to the intricacies of dirt track racing?

Smith : Yeah, I mean, I kind of have some experience right from trophy trucks and just drive around the trophy truck. I’ve gotten familiar with it, but how you drove the trucks on dirt at Bristol was really weird. I feel like you actually kind of drive it how you normally with Bristol.

Obviously, you’re way looser at times and way tighter at times that there’s not huge potholes and and practically jump. But they are very similar on how you drove those. But yeah, that was cool to be able to take the modifieds out with pretty much the whole GMS team. And I feel like I learned a thing or two. They’re just fun to drive regardless.

Tiongson : I talked about this with Kyle Larson about it. In his mind, he thought it was a successful weekend. But from your vantage point, the Truck race was intended at night time. Do you feel next year, with what you guys have learned, if you guys get to race that event on a Saturday night, that it would be a better show, not only for the fans, but even for you guys in the Trucks?

Smith : Yeah, I mean, I don’t want to sound too dumb about what I’m talking about. Because I don’t know what I’m talking about on dirt. But I feel like if there’s a way to kind of redo the track, like every stage, I felt like in the beginning of the Truck race and the beginning of the Cup, it raced pretty good.

And then it just kind of became single grooved. Like I said, I don’t know what I’m talking about. But I don’t know. It seemed like that from from my seat. It was a better race in the beginning.

Tiongson : It sounds about right. I’ve observed that as well and wondered, “Well, the start of the races for you and the Cup series, it was really fun to watch. But then, like you said, the track conditions deteriorated. I’m not much of a dirt track person myself in terms of the expertise. But I don’t think that would be a really bad idea.

Now, last year, you won the Most Popular Driver award, which I have to imagine it was pretty humbling experience. But when you think about it with how different last year was compared to any other years in sports and just in our world with the pandemic, how exciting and life changing was it for you to win that award and realize that you’re among the most beloved drivers with the fan base?

In effect, Zane Smith salutes the millions (and millions) of Zaniac fans. (Photo: Luis Torres | The Podium Finish)

In effect, Zane Smith salutes the millions (and millions) of Zaniac fans. (Photo: Luis Torres | The Podium Finish)

Smith : Yeah, I feel like that’s super cool. For sure. I feel like ever since it was Charlotte, I want to say, my fan base has really changed all around. Like I remember I’d probably get about maybe 15 fan mail requests in the mail at the race shop. And that was probably like a month.

Now, I feel like I get about probably 50 a week. So it’s just been way different. But super cool. I never thought of myself as a fan favorite or anything like that. I just try to be me and I’m not into being fake or trying to fit an image that I’m not. So, I guess it’d be like me, you like me, and that’s cool. And if you don’t, then you don’t.

Editor’s Notes

Special thanks to Zane Smith for taking the time for this latest “In the Hot Seat” interview series on The Podium Finish. You can keep track of Zane Smith here on TPF, his official website, Facebook and Twitter

Rob Tiongson

Rob Tiongson is a 30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught his eyes.

From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by him or by one of his talented columnists who have a passion for racing.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. He enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat.

Tiongson, a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, pursues his Master of Arts in Digital Communications at St. Bonaventure University. Indeed, while Tiongson is proud to be from Massachusetts, he's just as happy to be a Texan.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

WP Twitter Auto Publish Powered By :