Race Weekend Central

Brad Smith Reflects on 400 Career ARCA Starts

WEST ALLIS, Wis. – Brad Smith was the fourth driver called during ARCA Menards Series driver introductions at the Milwaukee Mile on Sunday (Aug. 28). The 53-year-old driver from Shelby Township, Mich., walked up with a smile on his face, sensing an accomplishment close at hand.

The Sprecher 150 was his 400th career ARCA start.

“Well, it seems like I’ve been doing this forever, so yeah, [it seems surreal],” Smith told Frontstretch. “When you really think about it, it is an accomplishment but nothing we ever set out to do; it just sort of worked out that way.”

After failing to qualify for the 1988 Talladega ARCA 500K at Talladega Superspeedway, the then 19-year-old Smith made his ARCA debut at Rockford Speedway. Driving a No. 67 Chrysler, Smith started 24th and finished 24th after crashing out on lap 20.

“We got in the […] way early in the race, and we crashed,” Smith said. “We learned up front to stay out of the way.”

Posted by Driver Brad Smith 48 on Tuesday, August 30, 2022

399 ARCA starts later, Smith has competed at 49 different circuits, ranging from the 0.25-mile short track in Rockford, Ill. to the 1-mile dirt track DuQuoin State Fairgrounds (also Illinois) to the 2.45-mile road course at Watkins Glen International.

Smith likes competing at all courses, but the two that immediately come to his mind as favorites are the superspeedways: Daytona International Speedway and Talladega.

“I like Daytona and Talladega because of the tradition of them,” Smith said. “They’re the big tracks. Honestly, all these different tracks have different personalities. There’s a lot to like about all of them. While I say Daytona and Talladega are my favorites, I like them all.”

Smith has plenty of experience at those places, as he has raced 17 times at Talladega and 12 times at Daytona. However, the driver of the red No. 48 has zero top 10s on those two courses.

In fact, Smith has only two career top-10 finishes. He scored his first career top 10, and his career-best finish of ninth, at Winchester Speedway in 2020. Two years later, Smith finished 10th at Berlin Raceway.

Smith lacks the resources, sponsorship, etc., of a top ARCA team like Venturini Motorsports. So for his small, hard-working organization, a top-10 finish is a big deal. Ever the competitor, though, Smith still has dreams of one day winning an ARCA race.

“Well, I wish they were wins, not top 10s,” Smith said. “Considering our budget, resources, the high level of competition out here in ARCA, I mean, we’ll take the top 10s when we can get them. We’re really proud of them. It is an accomplishment.”

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Smith has finished in the top 10 in the ARCA championship points annually since 2016. He is poised to continue that streak. In addition, he is on track to finish in the top five in the ARCA Menards Series East this year, another accolade for the veteran racer.

After 400 starts, Smith has many memories of his ARCA career. In fact, he has so many he could not single one out as his all-time favorite.

“There’s been a lot of them. The top 10s — those were a big deal. Then some of the races where we had a lot of trouble before the race but persevered during the race,” he said, “And had decent finishes when we thought we might have to just do a start-and-park.”

In fact, at Milwaukee, Smith only had one crew member: his brother Jeff, who serves as his crew chief.

Why stay in it? Longevity-wise, Smith attests his ARCA career to several people.

“My parents, obviously,” Smith said. “My dad kind of put the racing bug in me. James Hylton, obviously, was a great mentor for the five years I was with him. My brother stuck with me the whole way. He’s been pretty much my crew chief. Guys have helped me quite a bit like Andy Hillenburg.

“You make different friends in racing, and honestly, they all play an important part in me staying in it.”

Posted by Driver Brad Smith 48 on Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Although Smith is running his team on a tight budget, he knows how to keep it running. He has been a full-time owner/driver since taking over the No. 48 following Hylton’s tragic death in 2018.

“From our perspective, before the season starts, we ask ourselves, ‘Are we a full-time team or not?’” Smith said. “And obviously we are, so we just do whatever we got to do to go to every race that year. It’s not like we spend money at the beginning of the season like drunken sailors and then run out after five races. We pretty much budget ourselves.”

Indeed, costs have risen from when Smith debuted. In 1988, the average price of gas was $0.90. This year, the price is currently averaging $3.84.

The biggest change during Smith’s ARCA tenure has been when NASCAR purchased the series in April 2018. The acquisition has become a double-edged sword for Smith.

“It’s helped us in that it makes it more marketable to potential sponsors,” Smith said. “The flip side of that is it’s hurt us a little bit, because it’s become a little bit more expensive to do it, because now, you’re under NASCAR’s reputation. They’re trying to elevate it.”

When Smith began his ARCA career, he competed against Bill Venturini Sr. Now, he competes against Venturini’s team, which has fielded entries for drivers including 2018 NASCAR Cup Series champion Joey Logano.

See also
ARCA Power Rankings: Sammy Smith Dominated at Milwaukee

Smith’s career has spanned longer than Logano’s life. Logano was born in 1990, almost two years after Smith’s first ARCA start.

Nevertheless, Smith became only the second ARCA driver to achieve 400 starts.

10-time ARCA champion Frank Kimmel is the other. And while the two boast a combined 903 ARCA starts, Smith does not want to be compared to Kimmel.

“We’re not going to be known as like a Frank Kimmel or Iggy Katona, who won multiple championships,” Smith said. “We’re probably going to be known as the team that just kept coming, kept trying, kept working at it and just did the best they could and managed to stay in it full time for 15-20 years.”

Kimmel leads Smith by 103 starts. With 20 ARCA events a season, Smith would catch Kimmel in 2027. He has no aspirations of accomplishing that feat, though.

“No,” he said when asked about his future. “I’m sure we’ll be out of it before we get another 100 starts.”

Smith is the undisputed veteran in the ARCA garage. He drove his No. 48 to a 21st-place finish at Milwaukee, 14 laps down. Despite the results, Smith is adamant he will keep racing until he either runs out of money or he no longer enjoys ARCA competition.

Make no mistake about it, while 2027 may not be in the cards, retirement will not happen anytime soon.

“This is my extended family here,” Smith said. “They’re the people I hang with the most. I see my racing family almost every weekend compared to my personal family once a month. This is like family, and I’m going to keep doing it until I can’t anymore.”

About the author

Frontstretch.com
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Mark Kristl joined Frontstretch at the beginning of the 2019 NASCAR season. He is the site's ARCA Menards Series editor. Kristl is also an Eagle Scout and a proud University of Dayton alum.

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