Zane Smith has been here before. Twice prior actually. The Front Row Motorsports driver finished second in each of the last two NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championships. However, despite each feat, he’s left the Phoenix Raceway with an uncertain future.
“It’ll definitely be very meaningful,” Smith said of this third try at the Championship 4 on Friday night. “I’ve stood in the parking lot at Phoenix Raceway for the past three years not knowing what I’m going to be doing the next year. Hopefully, I can be standing in the parking lot with the championship trophy. That will make everything a lot better, but the past couple years have definitely scarred, but it’s something I want really bad. I’m just really proud of everyone for getting here in the first place. It’s so hard to get here and regardless of the outcome Friday night, we know we’ll be chasing another championship next year and, like I said, I’m just proud of everyone for getting here.”
Smith, signed a longer term contract with FRR for the 2023 season and beyond as he’ll be back in this No. 38 Ford next season as well as making some NASCAR Xfinity Series starts with a Ford team too on top of a handful of Cup appearances too. That has him approaching Friday night’s Lucas Oil 150 (10 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN) not looking over his shoulder and wondering if this is it.
“Yeah, that’s how I’m trying to approach it,” he says. “I feel like the past couple years it’s like, ‘Man, I really need to win this thing or else I don’t know what I’m gonna have as a job.’ So, now I feel like, I don’t want to say more prepared, but I am in a way and it’s a big effort, not only for me but for my whole team this year. I really want to reward Bob Jenkins with a truck championship for taking a chance on me and giving me more security than I’ve ever had in my career, so we’re gonna give it our all Friday night.”
Does that take the edge off of this race then?
“For sure, Smith continued. “I feel like we just do so much better as a group if we’re just enjoying every minute of it and I’ve been trying to say that to my team. It’s just that you never know when you’re last time you’re gonna get to this final round. It’s so hard to get here. You can have a perfect year and you don’t have a final good three races in that final round and it doesn’t matter, so, fortunately, we’ve had a great year. I think I only have three finishes outside the top 10, really no wrecked trucks or anything, a few wins and we know some areas that we need to be better in for next year, so that’s some exciting stuff for us. We’re excited about it. I think their approaching it the same way I am and hopefully we’re celebrating Friday night.
“I’d say like mentally I’m probably the best place I’ve been just with everything I feel like I’ve been through the past couple years. I’m excited about that, but the only pressure I feel like I mostly have is you’re always gonna have pressure in the final four, but I know my time in the truck series is running out. I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot in it, but I’m missing one big thing and it’s sitting right next to me.”
With his future solidified it also helps him realize that even without a title on Friday night, it’s not going to define him.
“No. I used to think it did and I feel like that did no good for me,” he says. ” I just myself want it really bad and I know everyone at FRM – all of the work and effort that they’ve put in, all of the man hours, they deserve it too. I’m so proud of them to get to the final four in general, especially in our first attempt together, but I do think we have a really good shot at winning this thing.
“I’m really just trying to approach this as a normal race because at the end of the day it is. We’re just competing for a title. I have a lot of family that comes out to this one since this is as close to home as I get, so I’m excited to be back on the west coast, but possibly seeing some family tonight and then hopefully in bed and waking up charged up and ready to go chase a championship.”
Smith says that even in saying that, he wants this title badly. He won the season opener at Daytona and would love to cap the year off with a win and a championship.
“I really want to get this championship. I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot in the Truck Series, but I’m missing that one big thing. I really want the championship bad, more than anyone and especially how I’ve lost it the past couple of years has been scarring, but, like I said, hopefully the third time is the charm.”