This interview took place on Thursday, March 9, two days before Sammy Smith‘s first career NASCAR Xfinity Series win at Phoenix Raceway.
It was always going to be a tall order for someone at Joe Gibbs Racing to fill Ty Gibbs’ shoes after his success up the ladder, but 18-year-old Sammy Smith has done just that … and more.
Smith took over Gibbs’ No. 18 car in the ARCA Menards Series in 2022, and he proceeded to score six wins and 15 top-five finishes in 16 starts: a total which included a dominant performance at Salem Speedway where he led all 200 laps. Smith also competed in the ARCA East Series under the JGR umbrella, and he scored eight wins and back-to-back championships in 2021 and 2022.
The Xfinity Series soon came calling, and Smith made nine Xfinity starts in 2022 with a best finish of third at Watkins Glen International in preparation for a full-time schedule in 2023.
A driver skipping the Craftsman Truck Series to compete in Xfinity is uncommon, but not without precedent. And in Smith’s case, he has quickly adapted to the cars and has had fun competing in them.
“[The transition] has been good,” Smith told Frontstretch. “I ran a couple of weeks last year, and I’ve been very fortunate with Pilot Flying J, TMC, Allstate Peterbilt group, Toyota and everyone that’s been helping me.
“I’ve been very fortunate to be able to make that jump, and I love racing Xfinity cars. They’re probably the most fun car I’ve ever ran. It’s definitely difficult with all the competition and the new tracks, but I enjoy it.”
Smith raced confidently at both Auto Club Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway, tracks that he hadn’t competed at in either NASCAR or ARCA before the start of 2023. And whether it’s new tracks or familiar stomping grounds, Smith is up for all the challenges.
“I’m excited about everything,” Smith said. “A lot of new tracks coming up for me but also a lot of tracks that I’ve been on in past cars, so I’m excited to get Phoenix this weekend, start back at Atlanta and then go to COTA [Circuit of the Americas] too.”
But there is also one track that he wishes was on the schedule: Iowa Speedway.
As a native of Johnston, Iowa — a suburb of Des Moines — Smith grew up watching NASCAR’s biannual trips to the Hawkeye State.
“It would mean a lot [for Iowa to return],” Smith said. “I used to go watch twice every year when they were racing there. I really enjoy…
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