Ford Performance NASCAR: Zane Smith Championship 4 Media Day

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Zane Smith, driver of the No. 38 Michael Roberts Construction Ford F-150 is looking to win his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship on Friday night at Phoenix Raceway.  The championship would not only be his first, but the first for Front Row Motorsports.  Here’s a transcript of today’s media session.

ZANE SMITH, No. 38 Michael Roberts Construction Ford F-150 – IT’S A DIFFERENT SITUATION, BUT DOES IT WEIGH ON YOU?  “Yeah, definitely, in every kind of way.  Like, it’s a lot of pressure every year, but I know my time in the Truck Series is running out in a way, so I really want to get this championship.  I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot in the Truck Series, but I’m missing that one big thing.  I really want the championship bad, more than anyone and especially how I’ve lost it the past couple of years has been scarring, but, like I said, hopefully the third time is the charm.”

HOW WILL YOU CELEBRATE?  “You will find me at, I think there’s a bar outside the track.  I will be there.”

WHAT IS YOUR PROTOCOL FOR GETTING READY TO THE RACE?  “I’m really just trying to approach this as a normal race because at the end of the day it is.  We’re just competing for a title.  I have a lot of family that comes out to this one since this is as close to home as I get, so I’m excited to be back on the west coast, but possibly seeing some family tonight and then hopefully in bed and waking up charged up and ready to go chase a championship.”

IS THIS A CRITICAL CAREER MOVE FOR YOU?  DOES A CHAMPIONSHIP MAKE OR BREAK YOU IN THE FUTURE?  “No. I used to think it did and I feel like that did no good for me.  I just myself want it really bad and I know everyone at FRM – all of the work and effort that they’ve put in, all of the man hours, they deserve it too.  I’m so proud of them to get to the final four in general, especially in our first attempt together, but I do think we have a really good shot at winning this thing.”

DO YOU TAKE THE MINDSET OF WHATEVER HAPPENS ON FRIDAY HAPPENS AND IT’S STILL AN ACCOMPLISHMENT TO MAKE IT TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP 4?  “Yeah, that’s how I’m trying to approach it.  I feel like the past couple years it’s like, ‘Man, I really need to win this thing or else I don’t know what I’m gonna have as a job.’  So, now I feel like, I don’t want to say more prepared but I am in a way and it’s a big effort, not only for me but for my whole team this year.  I really want to reward Bob Jenkins with a truck championship for taking a chance on me and giving me more security than I’ve ever had in my career, so we’re gonna give it our all Friday night.”

DOES THAT SECURITY TAKE SOME OF THE EDGE OFF THE GREEN FLAG?  “For sure.  I feel like we just do so much better as a group if we’re just enjoying every minute of it and I’ve been trying to say that to my team.  It’s just that you never know when you’re last time you’re gonna get to this final round.  It’s so hard to get here.  You can have a perfect year and you don’t have a final good three races in that final round and it doesn’t matter, so, fortunately, we’ve had a great year.  I think I only have three finishes outside the top 10, really no wrecked trucks or anything, a few wins and we know some areas that we need to be better in for next year, so that’s some exciting stuff for us.  We’re excited about it.  I think their approaching it the same way I am and hopefully we’re celebrating Friday night.”

HAVING GONE THROUGH THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS AND NOW HAVING ANOTHER CHANCE, HOW MUCH HAS THAT EXPERIENCE HELPED YOU?  “It’ll definitely be very meaningful.  I’ve stood in the parking lot at Phoenix Raceway for the past three years not knowing what I’m going to be doing the next year.  Hopefully, I can be standing in the parking lot with the championship trophy.  That will make everything a lot better, but the past couple years have definitely scarred, but it’s something I want really bad.  I’m just really proud of everyone for getting here in the first place.  It’s so hard to get here and regardless of the outcome Friday night, we know we’ll be chasing another championship next year and, like I said, I’m just proud of everyone for getting here.”

WHAT WAS YOUR CONFIDENCE LEVEL IN THIS TEAM AT THE START OF THE YEAR AND HOW DID THE SEASON MEET THAT?  “I knew coming into the year that it was a really good group of guys and that’s why I had showed interest in it.  I didn’t really care so much about the equipment or how pretty things were for the naked eye, but I really saw the work ethic in that whole team and that’s how I approach things.  I have to believe in the people and hopefully they’ll believe in me and I feel like that’s been the case this year.  Obviously, we started out really good winning Daytona and not having to worry about locking ourselves into the playoffs and that’s just been kind of an upper hand we’ve had.”

DOES IT HELP THAT FORD CAN POUR ALL OF ITS RESOURCES INTO YOU THIS WEEKEND?  “Yeah, I’m glad to see they’re acting on that.  The past couple weeks of, ‘Hey, this is our shot to win a truck championship.’  Ford is the number one truck, so I really want to get them a championship as well.  That would be me versus three Toyotas and I won’t have a ton of help out there, but I don’t know if I’d really want it.  Hopefully, we go knock them down.”

IS IT A WEIGHT OFF YOUR SHOULDERS KNOWING WHAT YOU’RE DOING AFTER THIS WEEKEND?  “Huge.  That’s a huge thing you hear and I think Jeff Burton typically talks a good bit about when a driver knows what they’re going to be doing next year they just race smarter and harder.  You should never feel too comfortable with your job, but I feel like I’ve raced differently this year and I think if I was able to get a championship, I’ll race even smarter than I am now.  I feel like that’s obviously a huge thank you to Bob Jenkins and all the partners at FRM.  It’s been a huge effort his year and I’m glad we made it to the final four for them.”

HOW DO YOU KEEP THE MOMENTUM THROUGHOUT THE SEASON?  “The frustrating thing about last year was we were so fast.  It was just a lot of mistakes that were kind of out of my power, that would take a win away from us.  The truck races are pretty short to where you can’t really have those mistakes, so this year we started out really strong, which is just great for a new team to click right away like that, but I feel like, I don’t know how many times I finished second this year, so I hope not to Friday night, but we’ve shown a lot of consistency this year and so I’m excited for it.  I’m ready to get going.”

WHAT DO YOU USE FROM PAST CHAMPIONSHIP 4 EXPERIENCES?  “Just experiencing the final four is a thing of its own.  There’s so much that goes into it.  There’s a lot to be proud of from a team standpoint when you make it here and that’s how we’re approaching it.  We’re trying to enjoy every minute of it and hopefully be celebrating Friday night.”

HOW NEAT IS IT TO HAVE A TEAM LIKE FRONT ROW THAT WANTS TO DEVELOP A YOUNG DRIVER?  “It’s pretty cool to see.  It’s super cool to see a guy like Bob Jenkins, who is so into the truck series and he really enjoys just watching and being a part of it and now he’s winning and chasing a championship in it.  I really want to reward him with this, but we have a lot of work to do between now and Friday night, so we’re just ready to get going.”

HOW BIG WOULD IT BE TO REPRESENT FORD WITH A CHAMPIONSHIP?  “It would be very cool to take down the other three Toyotas and have the Blue Oval winning on Friday night.”

WHAT WILL BE THE GRAND TAKEAWAY FROM THIS SEASON?  “Just the consistency that we’ve shown and clicking off the wins that we had right away is just super special with a new group and all of us learning about each other.  I feel like that’s probably the biggest thing.  Obviously, we always want more wins, but to be competing for a championship in our first year together is something to be proud of.”

DO YOU HAVE FAMILY AND FRIENDS COMING?  “Yeah, I pretty much see my family a couple times a year and it’s either a holiday or the past couple of years I’ve seen them out here, so most of them come out and they get to see me compete in a really big race.  I’m not sure they totally know how big of a deal it is, but they’ve definitely learned over the past couple of years of what’s on the line and it’s cool to see them and regardless of the outcome we always seem to celebrate right after.”

DO YOU FEEL ANY EXTRA PRESSURE THIS YEAR AFTER TWO RUNNER-UP FINISHES?  “I’d say like mentally I’m probably the best place I’ve been just with everything I feel like I’ve been through the past couple years.  I’m excited about that, but the only pressure I feel like I mostly have is you’re always gonna have pressure in the final four, but I know my time in the truck series is running out.  I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot in it, but I’m missing one big thing and it’s sitting right next to me.”

HOW DO YOU STOP FROM NOT BEING THE JUSTIN ALLGAIER OR DENNY HAMLIN OF YOUR SERIES?  “I don’t know.  It’s a championship of its own getting here, so you can’t forget that.  It’s just whoever is the best that one day is all that matters, so putting some attention on that is where I’m at, but I feel like the effort level is always the same of 110 percent.  It’s just executing that day.”

IS IT TOUGH BEING THE ODD MAN OUT WITH THREE TOYOTAS AND YOU?  “I don’t know.  I mean, yeah, it’s never easy on me on restarts or anything like that, but at the end of the day it is what it is.  You can worry about it as much as you want, but it’s not gonna change anything.  You’ve just got to kind of roll with the punches and deal with what’s dealt to you.  We’re gonna give it our all tomorrow night and see where we end up.”

WHAT DOES YOUR OFF-SEASON LOOK LIKE?  “Really busy.  A lot of traveling and hopefully deep sea fishing.”

MARRIAGE PLANS YET?  “I think we found a venue last week in the Charleston area, and I think it’ll be around November 9th-ish of next year.  That’s some exciting stuff to hopefully be chasing a second championship and a wedding to look forward to the week after.”

DO YOU GET HOME TO CALIFORNIA MUCH?  “Not really.  I wish I did more.  I’m really close to it now, but I don’t really have a place to stay family-wise right now, so that’s some of it, but my time when I have gone back I really enjoy it, so hopefully sooner than later I get back out there.”

WHAT IS THE GAME PLAN FOR NEXT YEAR?  “The truck stuff is obviously for sure, but we’re really close right now on finalizing these races, which ones we’re gonna be picking.  It’s a little difficult going back and forth right now because we’re trying to figure out off weekends because it will be my truck team pretty much running this Cup car, so we’ve got to not be able to do it when I’m racing a truck, which I really would like to because I feel like I really enjoy where we’re busy and I’m just always doing something.  Obviously, the 500 will be that way, but Xfinity-wise we’re not really sure yet.  We’re trying to get those things under the FRM banner finished up and then see what’s available on the Xfinity side.”

HOW MANY CUP RACES WILL YOU RUN? “I think it’ll be around five or six.”

DID YOU ENJOY YOUR TIME AT GATEWAY?  “I did.  That was very cool.  I knew that Sunday was different, but the atmosphere  and everything was just so much different.  I was a little worried with how the car drove in practice and qualifying, and then in the race it was honestly a lot of similarities to a truck.  We don’t get to experience, typically the truck race is where we’re dusting off the track for everyone and the Cup race, I’d never been to Gateway where the top all the way to the bottom worked, so that was just a lot of fun being able to move around and race with those guys.  You just learn so much in every area, whether it’s pit road, restarts or sometime during the race you just learn a lot from those guys.  I’m excited for those Cup races next year.”

WHERE ARE YOU GOING DEEP SEA FISHING?  “On Saturday, I’m going to Cabo, so I assume down there and then probably after the Florida Keys.  That’s where I’ll be.”

IS THAT A HOBBY OF YOURS?  “I love it, but we have some family friends that also enjoy that hobby.  I’m excited for that.”

WHAT EXCITES YOU THE MOST ABOUT HOPPING BACK IN A CUP CAR NEXT YEAR?  “Everyone wants to go Cup racing on Sunday.  I enjoyed my time at Gateway.  The cars are a handful, but they’re fun to drive and they’re fun to race, so I’m excited to pick five or six races, whatever it may be, and go do the best we can.”

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE WITH THE NEXT GEN CAR?  “They definitely drive very differently by themselves, but I’ve also driven an Xfinity car in 2019 and I felt like the Xfinity car was nothing like the Cup car, but the truck raced very similar to the Cup car, and so I know people say the truck isn’t a great learning tool, but the past couple of years the Cup package and now what it is, it’s really like nothing, but I feel like the truck is the closest thing to it.”

DO YOU THINK ANYONE WILL TRY THE CHASTAIN MOVE?  “I tried it on the sim just jokingly.  Maybe if the start-finish line was off of turn two, but I don’t think it’ll work.  A few friends and I were joking if it would work, and I think the distance from the top to bottom in three and four is just way too much, but I don’t know.  I never thought it would work at Martinsville and it clearly did.”

IF YOU ARE THE LEADER ON THE LAST LAP WILL YOU BE NERVOUS SOMEONE MIGHT TRY IT OR THAT YOU MAY HAVE TO DEFEND IT?  “To be honest, no.  How I thought of it is I don’t think it’s gonna work ever in a truck or maybe an Xfinity car, but it’s not gonna work in a truck.  I think now the spotters are aware of it and if it is happening, they’re just gonna tell them to get to the fence so they hit you across the line.  I don’t know.  If I was a spotter I’d be keeping my vision a little wider, but I think just at Martinsville they were all kind of in shock there when it happened.”

DOES ANYTHING FEEL DIFFERENT THIS TIME AROUND?  “Yeah.  I just feel like I’m in a way better spot mentally.  I know what I’m doing next year, which just takes a huge weight off my shoulders.  I don’t think it has me racing any differently.  If anything, maybe smarter in a way, and hopefully that pays off for Friday night.”


HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THIS RACE?  “I’m excited about it.  We’ve just shown speed everywhere we’ve went and so when you have a year like that, it brings a lot of confidence.  But, yeah, I definitely believe in a lot of momentum, but we’ve been crazy consistent and I think that’s what will get you to the final four and I just feel like we have a good shot Friday night and the best shot I probably have had.  We’ll see how our truck is in practice.  Hopefully, we qualify good and be up front on Friday night.

DO YOU CONSIDER PHOENIX ONE OF YOUR BETTER TRACKS?  “I do, yeah.  I mean, I feel like the only place you really can correlate it to is Gateway maybe, and I was pretty happy with my truck at Gateway.  I’ve always loved coming here and I think it’s a great championship racetrack.  I’ll like it even more if I have a championship at it.”

WHAT DOES A CHAMPIONSHIP MEAN KNOWING YOU HAVE A FUTURE SET?  “I don’t know.  It’s everything to me, so I just want it really bad, especially with how I’ve lost the last couple of years.  It just builds onto how bad I want it and I just really want to reward the people that have believed in me and have taken a chance, like Bob Jenkins, with how in love he is with the truck series to get him a championship.  It would be pretty special.”

DO YOU HAVE A CUP GOAL FOR RACES NEXT YEAR?  “We should know which races in the next couple of weeks, I would think, but it’s gonna be five or six races I think, which I think is good.  Front Row isn’t a huge race shop.  There’s a truck out of it right now.  I don’t want it to be too much on the truck team or the race team in general, either, so I’m excited for what we’re doing and I’m just ready to get back, as crazy as it sounds saying this, but to get back racing on Sunday.”

Campbell Marketing & Communications for Ford Performance

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