Sammy Smith arrived in a major way in Round One of the World Series of Asphalt on Friday night at New Smyrna Speedway.
Making his Super Late Model debut, and inaugural appearance in a Super Late Model, the 15-year-old beat Derek Griffith on a Lap 3 restart and led the remaining 22 laps uncontested. Smith is the reigning New Smyrna Pro Late Model champion and has a familiar support system around him in his debut season at Kyle Busch Motorsports.
KBM hired Anthony Campi to serve as crew chief for the No. 51 due to the success Smith enjoyed while driving for Anthony Campi Racing in Pro Late Models during the 2019 season. Through at least one sprint race, that chemistry has carried over into Super Late Models.
“If (Derek) would have chosen the top, I think it would have been more of a battle,” Smith said. “But I was on the top, and he missed a shift or something, and I got the jump. Once we got going, we were pretty much the same.”
It wasn’t a missed shift, but rather an expired clutch that derailed Griffith from launching off Turn 4 during the pivotal restart.
“He was really good, but we hurt the clutch today at some point in time,” Griffith said. “I grabbed a gear on that first restart and it ran right off the rev limiter down the whole frontstretch. The same thing happened on the second restart and he got ahead of us there.
“After that, their guys were good enough to stay up front. We’ve been fighting a little bit of tightness all day, but we made a ton of gains for the feature. Finishing second to KBM isn’t a bad thing by any means. We’ll change a clutch out, and hopefully that’s the issue. Good first night of Speedweeks, we’re not in the wall and everything is good.”
Brad May posted the quickest time in qualifying but was inverted to sixth before the feature. To get back to third was a successful night for the reigning World Series runner-up.
He just needed one more restart, especially with Griffith unable to launch off Turn 4.
“The car has been really good here and the long runs are really good,” May said. “We try to save a little bit in case there is a caution, so that you have something, but the chances of getting a caution once you’re all spread out is pretty slim.
“I started running as hard as I could at the end and we were slowly catching them but once they’re so far out it’s hard to make that ground up.”
Campi liked what he saw out of his driver.
“He showed a lot of composure, nailed the restart and gave us good feedback all day,” Campi said. “He did everything he was supposed to do and put us in the right mindset to do what we need to the rest of the week.”
Defending Night 1 winner Anthony Sergi finished fourth and Canada’s Austin MacDonald completed the top-5.
A lot of carnage after night 1 of the World Series of Asphalt pic.twitter.com/Vdsd3MhZHW
— Matt Weaver (@MattWeaverAW) February 8, 2020
Even though the final 22 laps were contested caution free, the first three were filled with attrition and chaos. The first lap couldn’t even be completed before a crash on the frontstretch between Brad Kossow and four-time champion David Rogers.
The caution on Lap 3 destroyed the cars driven by Trey Bayne, Ryan Moore and Augie Grill.
The crash destroyed Grill, who pinned the blame on Jesse Love, making his first East Coast Super Late Model start for Wimmer Motorsports.
“The 21 car was out of control, ran down on the apron, door slammed (Moore) and when they checked-up, I didn’t have anywhere to go,” Grill said.
Bayne has now been involved in numerous crashes at New Smyrna in the World Series and wishes his fortune would turn around.
“There were two cars basically stopped in the groove and I went low to avoid it,” Bayne said. “Jerking the wheel sent the car spinning and there was no saving it. I can’t seem to find good luck here the past few years.”
He is driving for Jett Motorsports this weekend and is convinced a car typically driven by the likes of Jeff Choquette and Stephen Nasse will have speed once it gets rebuilt.
“The damage doesn’t look terrible,” Bayne said. “These guys work quick and work methodically. They’ll get it right and hopefully we can find more speed out of it.”
Grill brought a brand new GARC chassis to the World Series and now he’s tasked with trying to replicate what he brought down from Hayden, Alabama.
“We’ll have to see,” Grill said. “It bent up some things and I just don’t know how much we can do to replicate what we had without going to the shop. We’ll get it as closed as we can, work on it and tend to it during the week.”
The World Series of Asphalt continues on Saturday with another 35-lapper with Smith holding a narrow championship lead over Griffith and May, but he’s not thinking championship yet.
“It’s way too early for that,” Smith said.
The complete results can be found below.
1 Sammy Smith
2 Derek Griffith
3 Brad May
4 Anthony Sergi
5 Austin MacDonald
6 Jett Noland
7 Justin Mondeik
8 Jesse Love
9 Colin Garrett
10 Max Calles-McDonald
11 Jake Garcia
12 Brad Kossow
13 Vincent Staggs
14 Steve Weaver Jr.
16 Trey Bayne
16 Augie Grill
17 Ryan Moore
18 David Rogers