After an up-and-down 2020 season driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports, Sammy Smith has inserted himself as potentially the breakout young star in short track racing. Just in the last month, he has won the Winchester 400 in Indiana and the Florida Governor’s Cup at New Smyrna Speedway, to go along with another Super Late Model win at Jennerstown Speedway and an ARCA Menards Series East title.
The Iowa driver now has a chance to close out one of the strongest year-end runs as a driver in recent memory at the Snowball Derby in December. Since his win in the ARCA East race at Southern National on June 12 of this year, he has finished in the top-five in all but three races. Take away his early exits in those races, and his worst finish would be seventh in the All American 400.
With his recent run of success, Smith enters the Snowball Derby as confident as he’s ever been behind the wheel.
“We’ve had some really good races these last three or four and we’ve ran good at Pensacola this year. I feel really good going into it, there’s going to be some really tough competition but I feel really confident going into it.”
Along with his recent wins at Winchester and New Smyrna, Smith has ARCA East wins, including one at Five Flags Speedway back in February. He’s also finished in the top-five at Milwaukee and Wisconsin International Raceway with the ARCA Midwest Tour, the Redbud 400 and the Martinsville 300.
He credits a lot of his newfound success to Donnie Wilson and Bond Suss following his move to Wilson Motorsports for the 2021 season.
“I feel like there’s really been a change from the start of Speedweeks to now. We’ve definitely improved as a team and I’ve improved as a driver from working with Bond and Donnie and all the guys on the team, they’ve helped me a lot. They’ve got a good program going on right now and hopefully we can cap it off by getting a Donnie Wilson car into victory lane at the Snowball Derby.”
We’ve definitely improved as a team and I’ve improved as a driver from working with Bond and Donnie and all the guys on the team, they’ve helped me a lot.
This will be his second trip to Pensacola as a Snowball Derby entry, but he is still looking for his first start in the race. Smith missed last year’s race after missing the transfer spot in the LCQ by one position.
With last year’s Derby in mind, Smith focused on getting better at Five Flags during his two Blizzard Series races throughout the year. He took the checkered flag first in the Blizzard opener but was later disqualified, then returned for the finale and drove from 22nd to fourth.
“I didn’t even make the Derby last year, I qualified 44th or something like that and missed the transfer spot by one. I didn’t run it last year but with the Blizzard races I definitely learned a lot. I know it’s a lot different from summer to December, but we’ll have a test on Saturday and we’ll see then.
“Over the offseason and before we got to Pensacola for the first Blizzard race I’ve worked hard to try and improve what I can do to be the best driver I can be. It’ll be a little bit different with them repaving the frontstretch but it shouldn’t affect it too much. Hopefully we can get there and qualify strong.”
Already having scored two marquee Super Late Model wins during “big race season”, Smith could cap of 2021 with the biggest win of them all. He would join Butch Miller (1987), Ted Musgrave (1988), Gary St. Amant (2000), Kyle Busch (2009) and Erik Jones (2013) as drivers to win both the Winchester 400 and Snowball Derby in the same year.
“It would mean the world, it would be the biggest of my career. It’s such a tough event to win, just to make the show is tough. Working with Bond and Donnie the last year, it would mean a lot to get them a Snowball Derby victory.”
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Racing America National Correspondent
-Photo Credit: Will Bellamy