Tuesday, May 29, 2018

ARCA: Brad Smith perseveres only to fall short at Charlotte

Smith's car at Toledo earlier this month
PHOTO: @DriverBradSmith
by William Soquet
LASTCAR.info Guest Contributor

Brad Smith finished last for the 12th time in his ARCA career in Thursday night’s General Tire 150 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway when his #48 BradSmithMotorsports.com Ford failed to start.

The finish came in the 318th time Smith had qualified for an ARCA race. It was his first since Talladega, two races ago. It was the fourth time Smith did not start, the other three coming with Wayne Peterson Racing.

Smith is a 49-year-old engineer who works for General Motors in Detroit. His racing efforts have often come out of his own pocket, complete with the number 26 and BradSmithMotorsports.com in the sponsor tab since 2001, jumping on the personal website bandwagon early. Smith’s first ARCA start came at Rockford Speedway in Illinois in 1988 as a 19-year-old. After running a handful of races that year, Smith did not return to the series on a frequent basis until 1995, when he teamed up with Wayne Peterson Racing. After on-and-off ventures with Peterson throughout the remainder of the century, Smith ventured out on his own in 2001 and became a mainstay in his #26. He abandoned his own effort in 2012 and worked with several underdog teams throughout the years like Hixson Motorsports, Josh Williams Motorsports, Max Force Racing, and most recently James Hylton Motorsports. Smith and Hylton ran the entire 2017 schedule together, pulling the car with a mini school bus after the team’s hauler was damaged.

2018 looked to be another survival year for the underdog pairing of Smith and Hylton. Optimism was high within the team before the year began. The duo started their season the way most ARCA teams do, getting caught up in somebody else’s mess at Daytona. The season soon turned downright horrible. Early issues forced the 48 out after only 17 laps at Nashville, and a blown engine at Salem forced the team to withdraw. A number of issues plagued the team at Talladega, where the team got the car on the grid only to retire because of oil issues without completing a lap.

It was after this race that struggles turned to tragedy. Team owner James Hylton and his son Tweety died in a crash heading home from the track. The death touched all in the stock car racing community but hit Smith harder than most. In the months that followed, plans for Smith and the 48 came together as thoughts and prayers poured in from the racing community. Originally, the 48 showed up on the Toledo entry list as part of the Kimmel Racing stable with Bill Kimmel in the owner’s spot. That eventually changed, as Smith and the Hylton Motorsports crew acquired a car the week of the Toledo race and got it to the track. Toledo was the team’s first smooth race of 2018, avoiding all problems en route to a 16th-place finish. The team then turned their attention to Charlotte.

Charlotte’s entry list touted 31 drivers with many notable part-time drivers and teams. Jesse Iwuji’s #34 returned, as did plate aces Codie Rohrbaugh, Andy Seuss and Bryan Dauzat. Venturini Motorsports boasted an impressive lineup on paper, with Michael Self, Brandon Lynn and Leilani Munter rounding out the team. Quin Houff and Max Tullman both announced this race months in advance with Mason Michell Motorsports. Brandon Jones and Todd Gilliland were entered in top-flight part-time entries. And in the back portions of the field, Tyler Dippel returned with Chad Bryant Racing, and Austin Hill made his first start in more than three years with Chad Finley’s team. Will Rodgers came in for his second ARCA race of the year, and Tom Berte came out of retirement to run with Fast Track Racing. Three steel-bodied cars rounded out the field: Zach Ralston, in his self-prepared #1, David Sear, the driver of the week in the #69, and Don Thompson, making his first run of the year with Wayne Peterson Racing in the team’s #06 Dodge.

Smith was one of two drivers who didn't make a lap in qualifying, the other being Salvatore Iovino, whose #38 Kayton Travel / Hardcore Hammers machine withdrew after not turning a lap in practice. Kayton Travel was listed as a sponsor even though Iovino had posted on social media earlier this month that the contract with the company, which initially included multiple K&N and ARCA races, had run its course.

Smith and company were helped by another independent, Andy Hillenburg, to get ready in four days for the Thursday race at Charlotte. Unfortunately, a broken driveshaft sidelined the team, sending them packing early. But not too early, as the team tried right up until the green to fix it but unfortunately could not. Con Nicolopoulos fell out after a single lap, likely to preserve his team’s composite body car. His teammate Thompson followed suit 18 laps later, both citing handling issues. Dauzat finished 27th after being turned early in the race, and Iwuji rounded out the bottom five after mechanical issues led to a wreck that also included Dippel.

Venturini Motorsports’ lineup looked good on paper, but never came to fruition. Munter was way off pace, finishing behind Tom Berte, six laps down. Michael Self went to a backup and never fully recovered, while Natalie Decker spun Dauzat in an apparent move of frustration or inexperience after Dauzat pulled away from her down the backstretch. This yielded good results from underdogs, highlighted by owner/driver Bret Holmes in seventh and Rohrbaugh in ninth. The two steel-bodied cars did not fare as well, each finishing six laps down to the winner.

30) #48-Brad Smith / 0 laps / did not start
29) #0-Con Nicolopoulos / 1 lap / handling
28) #06-Don Thompson / 19 laps / handling
27) #57-Bryan Dauzat / 19 laps / crash
26) #34-Jesse Iwuji / 32 laps / crash

1st) Max Force Racing, Darrell Basham Racing, Wayne Peterson Racing, James Hylton Motorsports, Kimmel Racing, Brad Smith Motorsports (1)

1st) Ford (4)
2nd) Chevrolet (2)


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