from Bob Pokras
FOX Sports NASCAR Writer
MADISON, Illinois – You’ve probably seen videos of players in the major leagues in the major leagues.
Well, NASCAR driver Zane Smith doesn’t have a video because his call this week was so unexpected. When Smith received a call Thursday afternoon from RFK Racing driver / co-owner Brad Keselowski, his knees almost buckled. And he still woke up on Friday, trying to figure out if it was a dream.
Certainly not. Smith got into the car of RFK Racing No. Friday’s 17th Cup at the World Wide Technology Raceway (known as the Gateway) as a replacement for Chris Buscher, who will miss the race this weekend after being positive for COVID-19.
Zane Smith for his ability to race for the Cup
Zane Smith said he woke up this morning, realizing that the opportunity he got this weekend in a car for the Cup was not a dream.
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“It’s obviously super cool,” Smith told Gateway on Friday. “It’s more like ‘Dude, what am I doing right now?’ I was literally collecting a cast of Brad Keselowski 10 years ago, and now he’s calling me to get me in his car for the Cup … It’s just unreal.”
Smith has won three races in NASCAR’s truck series (much like Double-A in baseball) this season and is considered one of the best prospects for the Cup. He turns 23 next Thursday and had no idea when his Cup debut would be before that phone call from Keselovski.
“My phone rang and it was Brad, and I answered, and he asked me if I wanted to make my Cup debut,” Smith said. “It’s something you’ve literally dreamed of since you were a kid. My knees buckled and I was so happy … From there, it was just crazy.”
Smith drives Ford for Front Row Motorsports in trucks, but the carmaker’s logo RFK Cup is the only thing like it.
After never being in a car for a training or test cup, Smith was given 30 minutes on Friday morning in a Ford racing simulator to try to prepare for the 1.25-mile track. It was also fitted with a mold to place in the insert on Keselowski’s seat to help him feel safe in the car.
“It was such a crazy 24 hours,” Smith said. “I started my day around 5 in the morning and realized that this is not a dream, and I went to the SIM, got about 30 minutes of SIM in a car for the Cup. And then [we] we made about half a mold inside Brad’s mold and we just tried to do everything we could – obviously at the last minute as much as possible. “
Smith was 26th out of 36 cars in training on Friday. He will start second in the truck race.
“I was definitely a fish without water,” Smith said of the Cup car. “I’m probably still a fish without water … They’re a lot harder to drive, for sure. I just have so much to learn.”
Zane Smith will replace Chris Buscher
Zane Smith says he got about 30 minutes for a simulator on Friday in a car for the Cup. Less than 24 hours earlier, he said his knees were bent when Brad Keselowski called to ask him to fill it out.
His goal on Sunday will be to complete all the tours and “be as many mushrooms as possible.”
“I’m not in a position to go to this garage and get the crap out of it,” he said. “I would like. But this is a huge opportunity they give me.
He also noted that he did not want to ruin things just because of my inexperience.
“Yes, I am slow at the moment. But for the first time you will see me in eggshells. I don’t want to be that person.
Bob Pokras has spent decades covering motorsports, including the last 30 Daytona 500. He joined FOX Sports in 2019 after a time at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @bobpockrass. Looking for more NASCAR content? Sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR newsletter with Bob Pocrass!
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