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2022 Truck Series Champion Zane Smith is growing with motorsports in the front row

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When Brad Keselowski, co-owner of Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing, picked up the phone to offer Zane Smith a one-race deal to fill in for Chris Buescher, the young racer was in for a shock.

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“Brad Keselowski is probably one of the smartest people I’ve ever met,” said Smith, 23. “The advice he gave me went a long way. He said, ‘Hey, you have nothing to prove. I already proved it by contacting you.’”

Smith Laser focused on competing for the Camping World Truck Series Championship for Front Row Motorsports, a Ford-backed team and worked with RFK Racing when it was known as Roush Fenway Racing in the past. In his first Cup race at World Wide Technology Raceway in Gateway, he finished 17th.

Smith’s solid run was the confidence boost he didn’t know he needed as he chased his first NASCAR championship.

“Those 400 miles, I learned a lot improving myself,” said Smith. “If you think you’re good on pit road, you’re not. If you think you’re good on the restart, you’re not.

“When you feed yourself to the wolves like that, which I’ve done my whole career since I was a little kid, you learn instantly. I’m thrown in the deep end. I’m so lucky to have been raised that way, and I’m going to experience that at an older age.”

With Smith’s No. 38 team continuing to excel in the Truck Series, Front Row Motorsports announced that it will return for 2023, along with a partial Cup Series schedule. A relaxed Smith, who finished runner-up in the Truck Series standings the past two years, was ready to prove why he deserved a contract extension.

Smith won the regular season championship by claiming three wins in the opening eight races of the season. He pulled through the qualifiers to qualify for the Championship 4. Come into the season finale at Phoenix Raceway, the No. 38 team, which hadn’t won a race since mid-May at Kansas Speedway, treated it as a must-win contest.

When the checkered flag waved after 150 miles, Smith held off ThorSport Racing’s Ben Rhodes—the 2021 champion—by less than a quarter of a second to take the title.

Smith explained, “It means so much that I can’t even describe it. People don’t understand how hard it is to get to Championship 4. It’s really hard to take advantage of that day.”

People are like, ‘You just have to be better than the other three. But usually, those other three are second, third and fourth. It’s about winning the race. You have to go into the race with the mindset that this is a must.

A championship victory really lifts the small two-car team into the Trophy.

“I think the wins and the championship now will only strengthen Front Row as a competitive organization that is capable of winning races for sure, and now winning a championship in one of NASCAR’s top series,” General Manager Jerry Friese said after Smith’s championship. “It just helps validate our company. It’s not just a race-winning organization now, but an organization that can win championships.”

As Smith prepares for his second season with Front Row Motorsports and fourth in the Truck Series, his schedule will be busier. He’s preparing mentally and physically to compete in both divisions next year, when he’ll run at least a few races in a third cup car for FRM.

“I’m really excited about it,” said Smith. “It’s going to be so much fun, especially because I’m doing it with my truck team: the crew chief, the engineer, my chief, and everyone on my truck will be on my truck, too. We’ll learn together.”

Smith is of course looking forward to his future in NASCAR. He thinks he’s found a home at Front Row Motorsports, and his next contract better be one that puts him in the sport’s top flight full-time. He is signed with the team until 2026.

“In the past, yes, the design was Truck, Xfinity and Cup,” said Smith. “People don’t realize now that a Cup car is so far from anything. Team owners will tell you this – it doesn’t make sense to go to Xfinity unless you’re already there. You’re about to race.”

Nonetheless, Smith has plenty of time, as he will spend the offseason preparing for the challenges ahead going into the 2023 season.

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