Series News - Bryan Smith Made Long Trek East To Follow Father Into NASCAR
DAYTONA BEACH, Oct. 25, 2011: Clint Bowyer may be a short timer at Richard Childress Racing but he gave his Shane Wilson-led crew a going away present they’ll long remember as the Kansas native won Sunday’s Good Sam Club 500 at Talladega Superspeedway for the second consecutive year and presented RCR with its 100th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory.
Bowyer, who’ll move to Michael Waltrip Racing in 2012, took the checkered flag just 0.018 seconds ahead of RCR teammate Jeff Burton, whom he passed on the final lap around the 2.66-mile speedway. Bowyer, Wilson and RCR annexed a number of special awards as well, including the American Ethanol Green Flag Restart Award for the fastest average speed on restarts; DIRECTV Crew Chief of the Race Award; Mahle Clevite Engine Builder of the Race Award for Earnhardt Childress Racing Technologies and Mobil1 Driver of the Race Award.
Among the celebrants was Bryan Smith, the team’s gasman who personifies NASCAR racing as being a family affair. Smith, from Redding, Calif., followed his father and engine builder Mark Smith into the industry and ultimately from northern California to North Carolina and NASCAR.
“Dad built motors before I was born,” said Smith, 32. “I started out in the shop cleaning parts but probably got in the way more than anything else.”
The Smiths, father and son, have worked together at times but not recently. “We get along too well to work together,” said the younger Smith, who worked for his father’s Tri-Star Motorsports in the early 1990s. The team won the Coors Light Pole for the 1993 Daytona 500 with Loy Allen Jr. The elder Smith was a principal in Xpress Motorsports during its 2002-03 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series title seasons with Mike Bliss and Travis Kvapil.
“I wasn’t part of those teams but it was good for dad and special for the family,” said Smith.
Smith, like many in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series garage, learned the craft with his father, brother and sister in the shop and at weekly tracks in the west. He worked in ARCA and in the NASCAR Nationwide Series with Braun Racing. He spent three years in Richard Childress Racing’s NASCAR Nationwide shop and on RCR’s test team. Smith moved to the No. 33 NASCAR Sprint Cup team upon its creation.
“Winning the Loudon race (New Hampshire in 2010) with Clint was really special,” said Smith, whose weekend duties off pit road is as an underneath mechanic working on the Chevrolet’s suspension, rear end housing, gears and transmission.
“I’ve been doing this long enough and done every job so few things come up that surprise me,” said Smith.
This season’s new fueling rules were challenging, but Smith said he’s largely overcome the early season issues with fuel flow. “We spent some time trying to figure out the gas can configuration and the best flow rate out of the heads,” he said. “Each stop we kind of held our breath, hoping it would go well. We finally figured out how to work around it.”
Smith hopes to become a crew chief in the future “but if I don’t I’m happy every day just working on race cars,” he said. “If I don’t make it I won’t be disappointed. This is a great group of guys, racers, building race cars.” He continues to be surprised how a small town like Redding – population 89,861 – could produce three RCR employees, himself, Ron Lidell and Mike Morrison.
“When you do racing for a living, the bad days outnumber the good days,” said Smith. “You have to have passion, accept (defeat) and keep going. You’re jealous of the one winner. But you want to be him next week.” It took a year, but for Smith and the rest of the No. 33 crew, this was their week to savor victory.