Saturday, April 24, 2010

Banner Moment - Moses Smith

Moments before hearing motorsports’ most famous words, “Drivers, start your engines,” the Star Spangled Banner revs up NASCAR K&N Pro Series West driver Moses Smith. While others have different cues, the notes of the national anthem flip his “on switch.”

“Every time I hear that song at the track, whether I’m in the car or not, it’s like, ‘All right now, this is what it’s all about,’” said Smith, who lives and works in Tempe, Arizona, about 30 minutes from Phoenix International Raceway. “I still get goose bumps, and that’s how I know its ‘Go Time.’”

For the 34-year-old driver who won the series’ 2008 and 2009 Most Popular Driver Award in an online fan vote, the Jimmie Johnson Foundation 100 is time to get his third full-time season in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West under way.

Driving the No.16 HASA Pool Products/White Flyer Toyota for Bill McAnally Racing, Smith finished seventh in the 2009 point standings, posting five top-five and nine top-10 finishes in 13 races. In 2008, he finished sixth in the standings with three top-five and 10 top-10 finishes. He’s ready to improve on those results.

“I’m definitely anxious for 2010 to start,” Smith said. “The Toyota All Star Shootout in January actually wrapped up our 2009 season, but it also provides a bit of a springboard into the next season by giving you momentum. With the disappointing finish, we are ready to get back to it and set things right.”

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 2009 Raybestos Rookie of the Year Joey Logano won that race, with Smith finishing 30th after finding trouble on lap 188 at Toyota Speedway in Irwindale, California, a few months ago.

This week, he’s at home in Phoenix, where he loves to race. Smith finished 16th in the Jimmie Johnson Foundation 150 in 2009, and seventh in 2008. The race is a bit shorter this year, running only 100 laps. That is something Smith admits may change every teams strategy in this weekend’s race.

In the K&N Pro Series West, teams may fuel the car and change two tires on a pit stop, but, to change the other two tires, the cars must make a second pit stop. With the race dropping from 150 to 100 laps this year, Smith said changing left-side tires probably will not happen.

“If the race was 75 to 80 laps, we definitely wouldn’t stop for tires, and we’d be watching our fuel very closely-counting the caution laps and figuring from there,” Smith said. “But, at 100 laps, we definitely have to stop for fuel. With the tires, if were not among the leaders, well be watching what they do and decide from there.” Many racers have goals of making a profit and paying the home mortgage with the race proceeds, but the reality is that the majority are not able to do that. Smith makes his living building race cars at his Moses Smith Racing shop in Tempe, where the specialty is building and racing cars for Formula Mazda competition that has produced upper-level NASCAR drivers like Scott Speed and Michael McDowell.

As the 2002 Star Mazda West Coast champion, the 2001 Star Mazda West Coast Rookie of the Year and the 2001 SCCA Class champion, Smith has the resume to grab the attention of major teams and sponsors. But, until that happens, he’s happy with his race shop, even though business is a littler leaner that he’d like.

“These days, if a guy came in saying he wanted me to find a way to make his barbecue grill cook faster, Id figure out a way to do just that –anything to help survive right now.”
Fixing grills may not happen, but Smith definitely would like to toast the competition at Phoenix International Raceway.

"The faster I get to go, the more I like it. Plus it’s my home track, which is very cool,” said Smith, whose 3,300-pound Toyota Camry boasts 650 horsepower, “The great thing about racing here is that we can race three wide. You can have two cars battling-one up high and one down low- and you can stick your nose in the middle and go after those guys, whereas a lot of other tracks really have only one groove and you have to make a bonsai move to get the pass done.”
Smith loves his hometown of Phoenix, of course, but he also relished the change to get to the bigger tracks-Phoenix International Raceway is the largest track on the K&N Pro Series West schedule.

“I love getting on the bigger racetracks because, with the short tracks, the car just gets a chance to stretch its legs and your back on the breaks,” Smith said. “But, at PIR, they just pull all the way down into the corner, and you carry a lot of speed.”
Speed entices every race car driver but, for Smith, another unique facet of the Desert Jewel puts a special sparkle in the racing.

“The dogleg on the backstretch really provides another place to set up for the pass,” Smith said. “We generally set up the car to perform well out of Turn 2, knowing that the dogleg provides an opportunity. Usually, you pass people going into Turn 1 or Turn 3, but the dogleg at PIR adds the dynamic that you can pass someone t here, then get someone else going into Turn 4.”
Smith still remembers his first K&N Pro Series West race at Phoenix International Raceway. It provided his most memorable moment in NASCAR.

“I had raced at Phoenix for years, but always during the daytime in the sports cars,” Smith said. “When we rolled the car out in 2008, and the lights were on, and everything just had the sparkle about it, that’s when I realized, ‘Wow, this is the big time.’”

Phoenix International Raceway
Official Souvenir Program - Page 84

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