FORT WORTH, Texas (BVM) – At just 24 years old, Zane Smith is a young, up-and-coming driver that has a bright future ahead. For quite a while, many were wondering where that future would take place, and this past weekend, that question was answered.
On Saturday, Smith announced that he had agreed to a long-term deal with Trackhouse Racing and will begin competing full-time in the NASCAR Cup Series beginning in 2024. With Trackhouse not planning to field a third full-time car alongside the No. 1 of Ross Chastain and the No. 99 of Daniel Suarez until 2025, an alliance has been formed between Trackhouse and Spire Racing that will allow Smith to spend the 2024 season with Spire – a team that currently consists of Corey LaJoie and Ty Dillon.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) September 16, 2023
“This is a really, really exciting moment for us at Trackhouse,” team owner Justin Marks said at a press conference announcing Smith’s signing on Saturday. “I think expansion is something that’s been important to us since we first got on the race track, getting to a place where we felt like we could be the most competitive organization as possible.
“Expansion can look a lot of different ways. Our alliance with Spire, and the opportunity to have Zane drive over there next year, gives us the ability to grow in 2024 to an organization where we can put three cars on the race track full-time in ‘25 and beyond.”
For Smith, the move up to NASCAR’s top series has been a long time in the making, yet continues what has overall been a quick ascension. After spending a few years in the ARCA Menards Series, the 24-year-old made his debut in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series just five years ago. He became a full-time driver in the series in 2020, earning his first victory the same year.
Since, Smith has racked up nine more victories in the Truck Series, including two early in the 2023 season at Daytona and Circuit of the Americas. That followed a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship in 2022, his first year driving the No. 38 Ford F-150 for Front Row Motorsports.
RHODES CAN'T GET THERE!
ZANE SMITH WINS IT ALL! 🏆 pic.twitter.com/QVopijNENP
— NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Trucks (@NASCAR_Trucks) November 5, 2022
Smith has also raced in a dozen Xfinity Series races in his brief time in NASCAR, but his most notable breakthroughs have come while competing in just over a handful of races in the Cup Series. In 2022, he filled in for Chris Buescher, finishing 17th at World Wide Technology Raceway in his series debut.
This season, Smith impressed right off the bat with a 13th-place showing in the Daytona 500, and earned a top 10 at the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte at the end of May. While Smith already seemed poised to join the Cup Series sooner than later, it’s those results that likely had Trackhouse confident in a long-term contract for the young driver.
What a drive, pal. 👊 pic.twitter.com/PDLXHdcnBF
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) May 30, 2023
“There was a pretty short list of names, and Zane was pretty much at the top of that list the whole time,” Marks said. “Huge fan of him, what he’s accomplished in the race car, his talent, his grind, but probably most importantly, and a core tenet of what we try to do at Trackhouse, is he’s a good human.”
While Smith brings a high ceiling with him to the Cup Series, Trackhouse Racing’s future also continues to look bright as Marks’ team continues its emergence in the sport.
In 2020, Marks – a former Cup Series driver and ARCA team owner – announced the creation of his own NASCAR team, Trackhouse Racing. Months later, he partnered in ownership with musical artist Pitbull, and the team fielded its first full-time Cup Series car with the No. 99 Chevrolet of Suarez in 2021.
The team moved to two cars in 2022, also adding Ross Chastain as the driver of the No. 1 car, and had a breakout season. That included Suarez making the playoffs thanks to his first win with the team early in the summer at Sonoma, while Chastain burst on the scene with two wins and a run to the Championship 4.
WHAT JUST HAPPENED?
Ross Chastain SENDS IT to advance to the Championship 4.
— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) October 30, 2022
Another significant moment in Trackhouse’s history also came last year as the team announced the creation of Project91, a program that allows international drivers the chance to compete in select NASCAR Cup Series events.
The payoff of the program was already seen just a year after its creation as New Zealand Supercars driver Shane van Gisbergen earned the opportunity to race the No. 91 Chevrolet in the Grant Park 200 at the Chicago Street Course in June, and became the first driver in 60 years to win their Cup Series debut.
Following the win, speculation quickly arose that van Gisbergen would look to join NASCAR in a full-time capacity. Just days before the news that Smith would join the team, Trackhouse Racing had also announced that they had signed van Gisbergen to a developmental contract for 2024 that will allow him to compete in various races in each the Truck Series, Xfinity Series and Cup Series.
NEWS: SVG is coming to America!
— Trackhouse Racing (@TeamTrackhouse) September 14, 2023
With a consistent driver in Suarez, a potential emerging star in Chastain and a driver with a lot of potential in van Gisbergen, Trackhouse has built something very formidable in just a couple of years. Adding Smith to the fold only makes the team more dangerous, and should have Trackhouse in championship contention more often than not going forward.
For Smith, that’s his ultimate goal, and he is ready to run with the opportunity he has been given.
“Obviously a huge day,” Smith said at Saturday’s press conference. “It just means the world to me … This is the place I want to be.
“It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. Just the sacrifices that have been made are where the emotion comes from, and how bad I want it. I will do whatever it takes to win on Sunday, and I now have that chance thanks to Justin Marks.”