AUSTIN, TX (December 12, 2003) -- There was Casey Smith, nervously walking around his trailer on Saturday afternoon (December 6) in Pensacola, FL wondering if he would qualify for the 36th running of the Snowball Derby. Just 24-hours later, that...
AUSTIN, TX (December 12, 2003) -- There was Casey Smith, nervously walking around his trailer on Saturday afternoon (December 6) in Pensacola, FL wondering if he would qualify for the 36th running of the Snowball Derby. Just 24-hours later, that nervousness was replaced by elation, as Smith came from his 31st starting spot to an impressive third-place finish.
"The car was awesome on the long runs," said 18-year-old Smith. "I think we probably passed 20 cars in that first run. After the pit stop, I got held up on a lapped car, got stuck in lap traffic and I went back to about where I started, but I was still able to work my way back up there.
"We had an awesome hot rod and I want to thank Joe Shear Jr. for coming down here and really cleaning everything up. He's one of the biggest reasons why we got a podium finish," added Smith of Shear, the legendary Short Track crew chief, who led Johnny Sauter to his Rookie of the Year and Championship titles in ASA in 2001. "Joe's awesome; he's more than just a great crew chief, he's a great guy and he's a great friend. He's going to be a big help to us next year. I think there's a lot more to come."
Smith missed locking into the show during the first round of qualifying despite practicing in the top-10 all day long. He was 38th fastest after the first round and elected to try again during second round qualifying on Saturday afternoon. Smith then turned a time that would have put him eighth in starting grid, but since it was his second attempt, he could start better than 31st.
"After first round qualifying, I was mad at myself for doing what I did, getting in the corner too hard and messing up the lap. With the new rules with the tires here (for the first time in many years soaking was illegal), you can't drive in as deep anymore. At least I can say that I didn't drive into the corner too easy."
After a quick start, Smith was into the top-20 within 20 laps and into the top-10 within the first 50 laps of the race, where he remained most of the afternoon. Great pit stops by his crew got him out in the top-five on nearly each pit stop, including third on the last one of the day. That set up a challenge with Charlie Bradberry and Gary St. Amant for the race win.
Smith tried to get a jump on both Bradberry and St. Amant, but couldn't get by the two champions of other series'. He was able to hold off 2003 ASA Champion Kevin Cywinski and defending Snowball Derby winner Ricky Turner for third place.
"I got a run on St. Amant and he got a run on Bradberry and it kind of bunched us all up coming into turn one and then (Scott) Carlson was on my butt trying to turn me. But hey, it's the Snowball Derby; the last few laps you've got to do what you can to hold your spot or gain another. It was a lot of fun but it was also a little bit nerve racking."
Casey Smith and his team plan to start the ASA season with the hope of competing for the $50,000 Rookie of the Year honors in 2004, however, they still need sponsorship help to do so. For more information on marketing opportunities with Casey Smith please call (512) 282-6845 and be sure to check out www.caseysmith.com.