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Sarah Crabill | Getty Images
Sarah Crabill | Getty Images

NASCAR Next’s Zane Smith to make his national series debut at Gateway

Zane Smith found out he was making his Camping World Truck Series debut with DGR-Crosley with a text around 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday.

Twenty-four hours later — after running through a series of checklist items — he will be wheels up to Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Illinois, where he’ll run the ARCA Racing Series race before making his NASCAR national series debut in Saturday’s Truck race (8:30 p.m. ET, FS1).

It’s been a “little busy today,” the second-year NASCAR Next driver noted.

“I actually found out about this yesterday,” Smith told Wednesday. “I got a text saying that we could do this … I didn’t even have a NASCAR license until yesterday. Got a concussion test and today I’m getting fitted and I’ve got to fly out at 4 for the ARCA race at Gateway as well. …

“It’s huge to continue to be able to move up the ladder and now finally the top-three tier. … Hopefully, I’ll be able to continue up the ladder, but for right now, all I can hope going into this weekend is just to have a shot and I know I’m definitely going to give it everything I’ve got to do the best I can this weekend.”

Now in his second year of ARCA competition, Smith, 19, earned his first three wins in the series this year at Nashville, Talladega and Toledo. His No. 41 MDM Motorsports Toyota edged out Joe Graf Jr. for the win at Talladega by 0.0029 seconds, the closest finish in ARCA Racing Series history.

The trio of trips to Victory Lane has helped prepare the Huntington Beach, California, native for his national series debut in the No. 54 Toyota, a truck most recently piloted by team owner David Gilliland to a fourth-place finish at Iowa Speedway on June 16.

“It just builds your confidence and (helps) carry momentum into this weekend,” Smith said. “I’m running an ARCA car this weekend as well before the Truck race, so that’s going to be good seat time and good track time since I’ve never been here before, also. I think anything is going to help.”

This weekend is one of excitement, learning and potential nerves during qualifying — although he hasn’t had much time to get nervous yet, Smith said. He hopes that people “notice” him when he takes the track — for good reasons.

“I think it’s just one of those deals … if I have a shot I’m definitely going to take it — shoot, I mean this is a once-in-a-lifetime deal, you only get to make your debut once,” Smith said on his strategy.  “So, I’m (going to) make the most of it and I’m going to be smart and learn as much as I can …

“Hopefully, we’ll just be running good and just have a shot, really. That’s all you can ask for racing.”