Latrobe native competing in national racing circuit
If there's such a thing as a home field in stock car racing, 21-year old Garrett Smithley has two.
Smithley recently began his career in the Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) circuit.
He moved to Georgia after spending the first five years of his life in Latrobe near his dad's family, but returned to Pennsylvania for his first two races at Pocono, where he finished a respectable 14th.
“The Pittsburgh area is absolutely home to me,” Smithley said. “I started racing in Georgia and graduated high school in Georgia, but it was a great experience to make my first big start in my home state at Pocono.”
His next race was Sept. 21 at Kentucky Speedway in his mom's home state.
“It just so happened that it worked out that way,” he said. “It was a really cool experience to have (my family) there for those three races.”
Smithley's family in Pennsylvania ended up getting the better show. He finished 26th in Kentucky after crashing with 39 laps to go.
“Racing is a sport that when you do well and you're up there winning, it's the highest of highs,” Smithley said, “but when something happens like it does in Kentucky, it's the lowest of lows. The highs and lows of racing are unimaginable.”
After the crash Smithley remained encouraged.
“I think it's just everything good that's happened so far,” Smithley said. “I get out of the car after a wreck and say, ‘You know what, I was here and I had a chance to do it.' ”
Drivers have to be constantly learning, both in and out of the car.
“Racing has changed so much over the years,” Smithley said, “and I joke all the time that I feel like I'm working a desk job like a businessman, rather than a racecar driver.”
Most of that time is spent trying to land a full sponsor. This has become increasingly difficult in recent years, but is key to climbing the stock car ladder, he said.
“Money is everything in NASCAR,” Smithley said. “It's totally changed from getting rides because of talent to getting rides because you either have a lot of money and resources from family standpoint, or lots of money and resources from a sponsor.”
Smithley believes focusing on and being confident in his four-year time table to reach the NASCAR Sprint Cup level will be the difference in accomplishing his goal.
“It's that kind of drive and the want to be motivated that separates the guys who make it from the ones who don't,” he said.
Gary Horvath is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.