Casey Smith rookie eligibility extended

AUSTIN, TX (July 1, 2003) -- Casey Smith may be young, but he understands the racing world better than most people his age. And that's why he is saving his rookie eligibility in the toughest short track series in America, the American Speed ...

AUSTIN, TX (July 1, 2003) -- Casey Smith may be young, but he understands the racing world better than most people his age. And that's why he is saving his rookie eligibility in the toughest short track series in America, the American Speed Association, for 2004. The 18-year-old plans on competing for the $50,000 rookie prize in ASA next season.

Smith's season started exactly like he didn't want it to. In what he thought would be the start to his rookie campaign in ASA, a mechanical problem forced him to miss the field of the season opener in Lakeland (FL). He returned with a vengeance by finishing no worse than 15th in the following three races; that included two top-10s and a career-best, third-place finish at Lanier National Speedway.

Unfortunately, more mechanical issues and a lack of sponsorship has forced Casey and the rest of his team to finish up the 2003 season with a limited schedule in order to preserve Smith's rookie status for the 2004 season. (Newcomers in ASA are allowed to race in eight events a year without losing their rookie status). Currently, the team is planning to make four additional starts this season, which will likely be the last four events on the 2003 schedule (Elko Speedway, Illiana Motor Speedway, Salem Speedway and Fairgrounds Speedway at Nashville).

In the meantime, Smith will stay busy testing his ASA car as well as running selected Super Late Model events in Pensacola (FL) and Concord (NC).

"It is a little disappointing, but that is what this team had to do to be able to come back next year and compete for the $50,000 rookie prize," said Smith. "We were out of the point race because of our mechanical problems in Lakeland and Toledo (OH), so we just decided to scale back and keep learning more about these ASA cars through test sessions.

"We proved this team can run with the top teams in this series. We just want to come back and be able to be competitive every week. That is why we have decided to take the course of action we are set on now."

Not only does Smith have impressive finishes, but also top-qualifying efforts. Smith has started in the top-ten in all three of the races he has attempted to run where qualifying was completed. (Qualifying was rained out at Concord.)

Smith will continue working with veteran ASA crew chief Robert Hamke, whom Smith started working with just weeks before the start of the ASA season opener.

"Robert is a huge asset to my career and to this team," added Smith. "I highly respect and trust his ability to guide us in the right direction for the rest of this year and next. We have an incredible driver/crew chief relationship and I am fortunate to have someone with his knowledge working with our team."

Casey has proven his driving skills by pulling up to unfamiliar tracks and running with the seasoned veterans. Unfortunately, the sponsorship dollars didn't follow Smith to those tracks. Just before the season opener, the Smith Racing team learned of a budget cut with their sponsor, the Texas Department of Health's Anti-Tobacco Campaign. Instead of funding the full 2003 ASA season, the Department had to cut back to just 3 races.

-www.caseysmith.com

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