Concord: Casey Smith preview

Casey Smith looking for a birthday gift in ASA at Concord. CONCORD, NC (April 15, 2003) -- Most teens spend their 18th birthday with their friends at a party at the mall or something of the sort. Not Casey Smith. His 18th birthday party will...

Casey Smith looking for a birthday gift in ASA at Concord.

CONCORD, NC (April 15, 2003) -- Most teens spend their 18th birthday with their friends at a party at the mall or something of the sort. Not Casey Smith. His 18th birthday party will be at the racetrack this weekend in Concord, NC, but those attending will not necessarily be his friends. Instead, he will face-off against his rivals in the American Speed Association during the BFGoodrich 250.

"I am really looking forward to that race, and spending my birthday weekend at the track is fine with me; I couldn't think of a better place," said Smith, who will turn 18 this Sunday (Easter). "I'm also excited because Robert Hamke (Smith's crew chief) has always had good racecars at Concord and he knows a lot about that place. I would like a nice top-10 finish as a birthday present."

Smith was hoping for an early birthday gift last week when ASA visited his home state of Texas for the first time ever. But, when the checkered flag fell at Houston Motor Speedway on Saturday, considering what the team went through in the Texas 250, a 13th-place finish wasn't all that disappointing.

"It was such a give and take race," said the 17-year-old Smith, who is from Austin. "We had hoped for more since we practiced and qualified in the top 10, but with all the adversity that we went through, I'm pretty happy with where we finished. I really figured that there may be five or six cars finishing that race on the lead lap; in reality, I think 16 did. ASA is so competitive this year; more competitive than it has ever been. That is why you have to look at a 13th-place finish as a good one."

Like all of the competitors, Smith spent much of the night battling the track and its "one groove" racing style. After starting ninth, Smith was holding his own before the first stop for fuel, which was supposed to be his only visit to pit-road during the event.

"We were planning to just stop for fuel, but then we got shuffled out of the lower groove and went backwards. The car was really tight at the beginning of the race. Then we worked our way back up and decided to come in and put right-side tires on and make an adjustment. That put us in the back of the pack again."

Smith managed to work his way back into the top 12 again before he was bumped by fellow rookie Travis Kittleson. That sent the "Tobacco is Foul" #08 spinning. Smith took the opportunity to come back in and take left-side tires. He then gave it one last shot from the back of the pack, but eventually he ran out of laps. His night ended in 13th.

"I wasn't sore about getting spun late in the race there because it was one of those chain reaction deals. The cars in front of me got bunched up and we all just hit the brakes. The car behind me couldn't get slowed in time and around we went. It was just that way all night long. There was a lot of beating going on during that race. It was really intense, but I think the fans really enjoyed it."

It was a much better outing for the entire Texas Department of Health "Tobacco is Foul" team after mechanical problems resulted in the #08 failing to make the first race of the season.

Now the team can focus their attention on Concord Motorsport Park this weekend. The race will be held on Saturday, April 19th, and can be seen live on SPEED Channel beginning at 9pm (ET).

-cs-

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Series Stock car
Drivers Travis Kittleson