Observers of Dirt Late Model racing have no doubt noticed the rise of 18-year-old Garrett Smith over the past year or so. This past week illustrated that coming of age in clear terms as the Eatonton, Georgia native scored his first victory on the Schaeffer’s Oil Spring Nationals Series at the Tri-County Race Track in Brasstown, NC. He added a fourth-place finish the following evening at Crossville Speedway.
Finally, the No. 10 Rocket Chassis team ended their weekend on Saturday at Smoky Mountain Speedway in Maryville, Tennessee with a runner-up result with the Southern All-Star Dirt Racing Series.
During his first full season in a Super Late Model machine, Smith competed in races meant to boost his experience level. For example, Smith raced successfully with the Schaeffer’s Oil Southern Nationals where he scored multiple top-10 finishes while gaining valuable experience along the way. Those lessons learned are now being put to good use early in the 2022 campaign.
Smith says it was just a matter of time before he picked up his first win.
“It felt great,” Smith declared to InsideDirtRacing.com in regard to his triumph at Tri-County. “I’ve been really close here lately to getting my first Super Late Model win. We finally got it. They say that once you get the first one they come a lot easier and I hope that’s true.”
Directly following a runner-up finish at Smoky Mountain, Smith believed he could have won had the race not gone caution free over the course of it 40-lap distance. Ultimately, his eighth starting spot sealed his fate as eventual winner Camaron Marlar had built an insurmountable advantage by the time Smith had made his way through the pack.
“We finished second here tonight even though we definitely had the fastest car but I just started too far back,” he explained from the SMS pit area. “Those lapped cars were really in the way and they were all over the place, not holding their line. We had a good night. I’m getting really excited for how these next couple of weeks are going to go.”
With a year now under his belt, the young driver feels much more comfortable behind the wheel of his Rocket Chassis Super Late Model.
“For sure,” he agreed. “My confidence rose when I went to Florida and ran SpeedWeeks and made some of those shows. We even set quick time and won heat races. We kind of fell off a little bit for about a month or two after SpeedWeeks and kind of struggled but we’re finally getting back in the swing of things.”
Friday night’s Spring Nationals feature at Crossville proved to be a contentious one for Smith. He and Cory Hedgecock raced each other very aggressively during the middle portion of that event with slide jobs between the two occurring multiple times. Ultimately, Smith spun following contact between the two.
After righting his machine, Smith then drove around several other cars as the field circulated under yellow flag conditions until he pulled alongside Hedgecock. A wrestling match between the two Late Models ensued with both cars receiving damage. Hedgecock pulled off track and out of the race but Smith continued on before finishing fourth.
The driver explained how his style has become a more aggressive one.
“I got tired of people using me up,” he declared. “To be honest, I’m going to show them that, like the incident last night was not okay, between me and Cory Hedgecock. A lot of people use me up that way but we both put on our helmets the same way and just because I’m 18 doesn’t mean you can use me up like that. I’m going to drive people the way they drive me. If they drive aggressive, I’m going to drive aggressive too.”
In the end, Smith hopes his recent momentum can carry on in the coming weeks.
“I really hope so. Like I said, we’re getting in the swing of things. It was a really great weekend.”
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