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Why Chandler Smith is No Typical Top Prospect

The Snowball Derby winner is entrusted with the direction of his team


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Chandler Smith is no typical top NASCAR prospect.

In an era with no shortage of teenagers with lofty goals and the infrastructure to point them towards the highest levels, Smith stands tall above his peers.

It isn’t just the rapidly developing resume either. Sure, his victory on Sunday in the 54th Snowball Derby made a powerful statement to close out a campaign in which he also won two NASCAR Truck Series races and contended for a championship, but Smith especially stands out for his poise and approach.

The 19-year-old is moderately wise beyond his years.

It wasn’t just enough for Smith to win races. Every teenager likes to go fast and wants to compete, but it’s how Smith intends to get there that makes him particularly unique.

Smith joined Donnie Wilson Motorsports in 2020 but brought more than his fire suit and helmet. Smith has competed in Super Late Models since 2016 and Pro Late Models since 2013. He genuinely loves the platform and wants to have a presence here for the rest of his career should the NASCAR ambitions continue to bear fruit.

He has learned a great deal from Kyle Busch over the past three years and is confident in what he needs from this kind of race car. In return, Wilson and crew chief Bond Suss have confidence in Smith to direct them as an active leader of their No. 26 team.

"Chandler is the most hands-on driver I've worked with," Wilson said. "Don't get me wrong, Sammy (Smith) is hands-on too, but Chandler has raced here a long time and he knows these tracks and what he wants to feel in a race car.

"And I think that showed this week because we were limited in track time because we blew up during our test and then he spent the next couple of days in Nashville with NASCAR."

Smith has enjoyed the competition in the Truck Series, and the spotlight it allows him to show his competitive nature and developing skill set, but he especially takes to Super Late Models because it isn’t as data driven as NASCAR.

He enjoys the part of the process that rewards instinct and feel, where that has been largely replaced by computers and data sheets at the highest level of the sport.

"I have a lot more say over here and I have a lot more control at what goes on for sure," Smith said. "I trust everyone on the NASCAR side, and I trust everyone at Donnie Wilson Racing but I want to prove that I can be a leader and I have responsibilities here.

"I do this fun, and to win races, but I want to build something too. I'm really blessed to be in this position to have an amazing team, this racing family, my family, my amazing wife and the good lord has blessed me for sure."

Smith is widely considered the top prospect in the Toyota pipeline.

He will spend another season in the Truck Series, his second full-time, but fourth making multiple starts. If he progresses from his two-win 2021 season, a promotion to the Xfinity Series wouldn’t be out of the question.

Then it becomes a matter of finding room for him at the Cup Series level.

But that is still a few years away, and through it all, Smith hopes to be able to continue building something with Wilson or something like what he has with Wilson and Suss for years to come. This discipline isn't just a stepping stone to the Georgia native.

"I'm going to be really honest here, and I mean this, I want to race Super Late Models until I retire," Smith said.

He loves it that much?

"I really love it that much."

Smith says it has shaped who he has become and the Super Late Model community most embodies the type of racers he wants to emulate.

"I have been racing these types of cars since I was 12," Smith said. "So, a lot of it is that it's my childhood love. It's fundamental to who I am. It's how I met (Toyota's) Jack Irving at the Winchester 400 and kicking off my relationship with Toyota.

"And I really feel like this is the best kind of racing there is."