Arguably Toyota’s best pavement stock car prospect, Chandler Smith will make his Gander Outdoors NASCAR Truck Series debut on Saturday night at Iowa Speedway in the No. 51 for Kyle Busch Motorsports.
The 16-year-old rose to prominence driving Super Late Models in the Southeast and Midwest under the guidance of crew chief Ricky Turner — the same driver-turned-mechanic who spearheaded fellow Georgia-native Chase Elliott’s ascent to the highest levels.
Smith has really shined in the ARCA Racing Series with three wins and six poles in 13 starts for Venturini Motorsports. The next two days at the NASCAR-owned racetrack is the culmination of one dream for the Toyota-supported prospect.
“I think it’s really cool,” Smith said. “I’ve always dreamed about racing in NASCAR in general, whether it’s the Truck Series or Xfinity Series or even the Cup Series when I get a little older, if I ever get that opportunity. It’s definitely kind of a dream come true. I’ve always dreamed of racing when I was a little kid, when I was watching NASCAR and I was like, ‘I really want to do this someday,’ and look where I am now.
“I’m doing it now and for the best team there is in the series. I’m very blessed to be where I am now and thankful for everyone that’s been around me and that’s gotten me here.”
Smith will have every opportunity to impress in the cornfields as he will drive the same No. 51 truck that Kyle Busch and Greg Biffle have won with this season with veteran crew chief Rudy Fugle on top of the pit box.
That also speaks to the level of conviction Toyota has in Smith. He’s being given every tool to succeed in his handful of KBM starts this year.
In one start at Iowa in the ARCA Racing Series last season, he finished second after starting second. He also completed 250 laps in a test at Iowa last month.
“I think it will help a lot and especially since we went there and tested the truck,” Smith said. “I’m really familiar with the track and I’m really comfortable moving around in different lanes. I’m going to have to get used to the aero deal, with racing around trucks, all the dirty air. It’s just going to be a learning curve for me, so I feel like that’s going to be the biggest challenge, just getting used to that.
“Being able to make the right moves and at the right time is important. I think that’s going to be the biggest thing, but other than that I really like Iowa, and the trucks are the perfect fit for that track, so I’m really excited to get there.”
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