PENSACOLA, Fla. — official event release — Ed Aldridge photo —
Back in February a relatively unknown driver by the name of Zane Smith burst onto the Super Late Model scene by winning the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing championship at Florida’s New Smyrna Speedway.
He’s followed that up with three Pro All Stars Series (PASS) South victories in 2015 and now he’s heading back to the Sunshine State with the hopes of book-ending his breakout season with another big win in Florida at the 48th Annual Snowball Derby.
“That would be absolutely huge,” said Smith. “It’s the Snowball Derby. Just the name says it all. You look at the previous winners and they’re all names now. It would be cool to say all the people that I’ve beat of all the big names that go down there. And in front of all those people down there too. That would just be awesome. I couldn’t even put that into words.”
The 16-year-old driver will be pulling double-duty at Five Flags Speedway during the weekend of December 6 when he attempts both the Snowball Derby and the Allen Turner Hyundai Snowflake 100 in his Pro Late Model.
Smith said he knows that running both races will be a tiring endeavor, but he also said that he believes running both events will help more than it will hurt.
“It’s definitely going to be tiring going from one car right out into the other,” he said. “But in qualifying that kind of helps me. If I mess up in one class then I could improve in the other because I can see what I messed up in to fix it. It’ll all help in the end. By the end of the week hopefully we can go home with two good finishes.”
The driver originally from Huntington Beach, California said there’s one part of the weekend that he is very nervous about, and that is qualifying. He’s been fast at almost every race track that he’s visited throughout this season, but he struggled in qualifying during the All American 400 at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville (TN) this year and had to race his way in through the last chance qualifier.
“Qualifying definitely has me nervous,” said Smith. “There’s so much money put into one race, and so much hard work and effort. As long as we don’t have anything go wrong like (the broken shock in Tennessee) then we should be perfectly fine. I’m not expecting to qualify in the top three in my second time down there but a top 15 or top 10 would be good.”
One thing that does have Smith confident is his qualifying performance at the Southern Super Series finale in September, which was the last time Super Late Models raced at Five Flags, and also Smith’s first trip to Five Flags.
“It was our first race there and in qualifying I was only a tenth off of Bubba Pollard who got the pole,” said Smith. “We raced pretty good too. And that was a last-minute deal in deciding to go there.”
As many drivers and teams do, Smith is planning on running a special design on his No. 77 machines at Five Flags. He plans to have two different designs, one for each car. But Smith said that right now he has absolutely no clue what the cars will look like.
“I have no idea what we’re doing yet,” he said. “We’re definitely going to do a wrap. But I haven’t thought of anything. If people want to go on my Facebook or Twitter or anything and give me some ideas I would love that. We were thinking a snowman on there or for the Snowflake we were thinking of having snowflakes run down the car or something like that.”
CREDIT: 51 Sports / Snowball Derby