Smith Hoping Fayetteville Will Boost Clash Title Hopes

Smith Hoping Fayetteville Will Boost Clash Title Hopes

by August 9, 2019 0 comments

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. – Jeff Smith is no stranger to Victory Lane at Fayetteville Motor Speedway. 

The veteran racer from Gaston County has won numerous unsanctioned Super Late Model shows at the track, notched four of his 30 career Carolina Clash victories at the speedway, and was victorious in Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt and World of Outlaws Late Model events at the track in 2007 and ‘09, respectively.

He’s hoping Fayetteville will be good to him again Saturday night when the Clash returns to the 4/10ths-mile oval. He enters the $4,000-to-win event second in the points behind Brett Hamm of Newberry, S.C., the winner of Fayetteville Clash race on March 30.

“I guess to be in second the way I feel like our season’s been, I’m very fortunate,” said Smith, a 53-year-old racecar builder. “We’ve had a lot of little gremlins this year that are not really things of our own doing … just gremlins.”

Even so, the 2009 Clash titlist has finished in the top nine in the five Clash events this season, including third-place showings in the two most recent races, June 11 and July 26.

He attributes those solid outings to a trip back to the Rocket Chassis headquarters in Shinnston, W.Va. His team put the car back on the chassis jig on which it was built and discovered some small issues that have been corrected.

“We were decent when we went to Laurens (in June) and this last race at Carolina,” Smith said. “The race at Carolina is about as good as I’ve felt about the car when we left at the end of the night. I had taken the car to Rocket … and we just went through everything. I was real pleased when we got back with it to the track. We fixed a couple of things, and these days, two or three small things equal a big thing.”

There’s less room for error now than ever before, Smith said, because of advances in technology, parts and knowledge. Every area of the car demands intense scrutiny before and during each race, he said.

“With the way it is now, the hairs have been combed and now we’re splitting hairs. If you aren’t splitting hairs, you’re going to get outrun,” Smith said. “The days of the driver being able to make up a little bit in the seat, they’ve just about passed us by now. You’ve got to have your car on ‘kill’ from the time you get there ‘til the time you go home.

“The days of kind of saving your stuff ‘til the last 10 or 15 laps, they’re in the past, man. Every race is basically a sprint to the finish anymore.”

Smith’s winning ways in regional Super Late Model competition date back 25 years to a Hav-A-Tampa tour win in Barberville, Fla., in 1994. Following in the footsteps of his father, Freddy — a charter member of the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame in 2001 — Jeff ranks third all-time with 30 Clash triumphs. In addition to his 2009 championship, he fell just 10 points short of the 2012 Clash title, was second to Ricky Weeks for Clash gold in 2004 and ‘06-’07. He was the 1999 runner-up for the Southern All Star series crown.

He says that the advanced state of today’s cars makes it difficult for him to employ one of his biggest assets, which is his ability to “feel” what the car’s doing at top speed.

“It’s changed so much that you have to adjust your driving,” Smith said, “And you have to drive them different. It’s really hard to feel the car in the seat of your pants as much as you used to, and that was one thing I always felt pretty good about, was being able to feel my car and know what adjustments I needed.

“Now, they’re locked up at ‘attitude’ all the way around the racetrack, so you don’t feel all that stuff moving as much. It’s just harder to get a read on it sitting in the seat. You’ve got to have a good crew guy that can pay attention to the attitude of the car to help you make your decisions; I can’t see it. The front end’s got to be sealed off to the racetrack. I can tell if the car’s locked up, but I can’t tell if that front end is 3 inches off the ground or 1 inch. You’ve got to be sealed off from the racetrack for best results.”

Saturday’s “Back to School Bash” will include a special $500-to-win event for the Renegades division, plus competition in the Diet Mountain Dew Modified, Sportsman, Stingerz and Legends ranks.

Admission price is $30 in the pits and for adults in the VIP tower, $20 for adults, and children ages 11-15 are $10 in the grandstands; 10-under, free.  Pits gates open at 4 and the grandstands at 5. The drivers’ meeting in the local divisions will be at 6:15 p.m. and hot laps get underway at 6:45.

Source: Fayetteville Motor Speedway

Photo Credit: Heath Lawson

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