Sometimes, the down-to-earth, southern feel of stock car racers can get lost in the corporate atmosphere of it all. Sponsors need their airtime, public relations managers need to get a driver to the next stop, and a lot of the charm of oval-track racing can get lost in the mix.
But that’s not the case with Chandler Smith. At least, it doesn’t appear to be.
If one asks Smith how he got started in racing, he’ll say he was “just watching some NASCAR on a good ol’ Sunday afternoon.” Since he was “glued to the TV every Sunday,” Smith called his dad at age 3 to say he wanted to start racing.
His dad agreed and Smith got into a go-kart in 2008 at age 5.
“We know some people around where we live who started out in go-kart racing,” said Smith, whose family didn’t have any hands-on experience in the sport but had a lot of his grandfather’s racing memorabilia around the house. “I’m not 100 percent sure myself (how our family learned the ropes), to be honest.
“I mean, like I said, we all started in go-karts,” he continued. “Our friend raced go-karts, and so we started off in that and he kind of guided us from there. After we went over to quarter midgets, we met a good bit of people (who helped us out).”
Smith, who turns 15 on June 26, moved through the quarter-midget ranks quickly. After winning the QMA Jr. Stock National and Eastern Grands, as well as the USAC Jr. Honda, Jr. Stock and Light Mod National championships in 2010, Smith spent a couple of years in Bandoleros.
Smith claims between quarter midgets and Bandoleros he’s won 11 national championships — a lot for a kid who didn’t grow up around racing. In his final year of Bandolero action, Smith says he won 25 of his 26 races. At age 12 in 2015, he moved into late models — the part of his career he’s most proud of so far.
“We’ve had a good bit of success with (our late model career),” said Smith, who started in a pro late model and is running his first full season in a super late model this year. “We haven’t gotten many wins — I think we’ve only gotten one overall — but I’ve been pretty happy with it.”
Based on his performance at Five Flags Speedway in December, one would think he’s been in those cars for a lot longer than he has. Smith finished third in the annual Snowflake 100 pro late model race and fifth in the Snowball Derby, which attracts the top super late model racers from across the country every year.
To even qualify in a field of 30-something cars with more than 70 on the entry list is an accomplishment, but to finish fifth is a true feat.
But Smith doesn’t make a big deal about it. In the Snowball, Smith acknowledges he just “kept the fenders” on the thing to get a top five.