Race Weekend Central

Truckin’ Thursdays: Zane Smith Redeveloping in Truck Series

It’s no secret that for many young drivers, the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series is a stepping stone.

It’s just a rung on the ladder that leads up to the top of the stock car racing world.

While often referred to as a developmental series, I find “feeder” to be a more accurate description. Few drivers remain there long enough to develop into anything. All too often, everyone involved from the driver to the owner to the sponsor just wants a pile of wins accompanied by a championship and then it’s off to the Xfinity Series or even straight to the Cup Series in some cases.

But rushing drivers through the ranks doesn’t necessarily help them be better. For every one who executes the climb perfectly, there are many more who fail to live up to expectations upon reaching the upper levels of NASCAR. They spend years floundering in mediocrity or get sent packing back down the ladder after an abbreviated attempt at being successful.

That’s why Zane Smith is something of an anomaly.

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Whether by choice or not, 2023 will be the fourth year he’s been a full-time participant in the Truck Series. He’s also been rather good in each of those years with eight wins and two runner-up points finishes capped off by a championship last year.

Now the development of Smith as a racer is starting to show. But such progress is only partially measured in wins and titles. Smith was running at the conclusion of every race last season and all three so far in 2023. He is more patient when the situation calls for it and it keeps him out of trouble.

Trust me: when you’re the guy writing the checks to replace bent sheet metal, that is something you want your driver to develop into.

Smith will not be in the Truck Series for the rest of his career. He’s too young and getting too good. But that’s the point of “going to school.” Smith has not only been through the class but demonstrates a mastery of the material. He will graduate to the next level and will continue to outperform his peers because he was given an appropriate amount of time to develop his craft.

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Truckin Tidbits

Circuit of the Americas is the next stop for the trucks and Smith has to feel pretty good about his chances. Not only did he replicate his first win from 2022 but his ride, Bob Jenkins’ No. 38, is the only truck to win at the Austin, Texas road course.

Todd Gilliland scored the victory in the 2021 inaugural event.

Nick Sanchez has definitely been the “where did he come from?” driver of the season this far. After winning the pole at Daytona International Speedway and qualifying second at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Sanchez nearly pulled off the win in Atlanta Motor Speedway last weekend. The defending ARCA Menards Series champ looks like a good possibility to pick up his first truck win soon.

Kyle Busch isn’t the only Cup regular dipping his toe in the truck pool this week. Ross Chastain will be back behind the wheel at the track where he earned his first Cup victory last season. Joining the two of them will be Alex Bowman, who is making just his fifth start. Bowman will look to improve on his career-best finish of sixth back in 2017 at Atlanta.

About the author

frank.velat7

Frank Velat has been an avid follower of NASCAR and other motorsports for over 20 years. He brings a blend of passionate fan and objective author to his work. Frank offers unique perspectives that everyone can relate to, remembering the sport's past all the while embracing its future. Follow along with @FrankVelat on Twitter.

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