Everything is coming together for Zane Smith

Gavin Baker/Motorsport Images

Everything is coming together for Zane Smith


Everything is coming together for Zane Smith


Zane Smith will not be driving a race or truck this weekend at Dover Motor Speedway. Instead, he’ll be hundreds of miles away enjoying a much-looked-forward-to break in Charleston.

The 23-year-old Front Row Motorsports shoe has been busy this season. Smith is defending his Craftsman Truck Series crown and running a limited schedule for the team in the Cup Series. An additional race was added to is Martinsville Speedway weekend when fellow Ford team Rick Ware Racing called on his services for the No. 51 car.

“I personally love it,” Smith tells RACER of splitting his time between garages. “I wish I could race all three (series) every weekend; I enjoy racing in general. So, it’s been a lot of fun. Very busy. Especially during the week.”

Things are happening quickly for Smith, who made his Cup Series debut last summer for RFK Racing. Smith drove the No. 17 Ford to a 17th-place finish in St. Louis when COVID-19 sidelined Chris Buescher.

In the following months, Smith won the Truck Series championship after two previous seasons of being the runner-up. Front Row announced during the offseason that Smith, now one of the sport’s hottest prospects, would continue to show his worth with a slate of Cup Series schedules.

Smith has run four of the first 10 races in the Cup Series, finishing a career-best 13th in the season-opening Daytona 500. With laps has come comfort for Smith at the sport’s top level.

“Performance-wise, we haven’t had the finishes we want, but we actually don’t run bad,” he says. “In my debut, we ran well and finished 17th, learned a lot there, and then the Daytona 500 just kind of survived and finished 13th. At Phoenix, we got off on strategy and had a really rough day.

“It’s tough. You see really good cars and big names have an off weekend, and they’re running right back there. So I think this is the closest you’ve ever seen the field. We’re just trying to not beat ourselves and have good weeks when we can.”

Of the seven Truck Series races in the books, Smith has won two (Daytona and Circuit of the Americas) and sits second in the point standings. His average finish is 8.9, and he’s completed every lap.

Being a driver in demand goes a long way. Front Row stayed in the Truck Series business to sign Smith before the 2022 season, and he repaid them with a four-win championship season. The company wants him in a Cup Series car, moving its lineup around to put him in the chartered No. 38 Ford and fielding an occasional third car for Todd Gilliland – the primary driver of the No. 38.

The jump to Cup is a big one for any driver, but Smith’s comfort level goes up with each opportunity to get behind the wheel of Front Row’s No.38. John K Harrelson/Motorsport Images

RKF Racing wanted Smith last year. Rick Ware a few weeks ago. As his stock within the industry continues to climb, so does his confidence.

“It’s definitely high, and the championship lifted a huge weight off my shoulders; finally being able to get that,” says Smith. “We’ve been able to accomplish a lot on the truck side, but it’s time now to put a lot of focus on the Cup side and trying to be successful there.”

A jump to the Cup Series is never easy; the results will come with time and experience. And for Smith, that’s all he can ask. It wasn’t long ago that all he wanted was for his time in the sport to continue as he drove every race and every weekend like it was an audition.

Smith does not come from money and hasn’t had one significant sponsorship partner. When he won his first Truck Series race at Michigan in the summer of 2020 for GMS Racing, Smith was in near tears talking about how it was “unbelievable that I made it to this point.” A year later, Smith said he was “looking for a job” after winning at Martinsville Speedway.

Grit, determination, and talent have kept Smith around. Those same things are what have made him into a star.

Time will tell what comes next for him but he’s just glad to feel more settled and have a place in the sport.

“Absolutely,” Smith says. “That goes back to the weight off your shoulders (because) I feel like the champions of our sport are kind of certified. It’s our blue check mark.

“Hopefully, we can capture another one this year, but you still have to perform in this sport. Especially on Sunday, which is a whole other level. It’s been great to get my feet wet in these select races, but I’m excited for whatever the future holds.”