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Smith’s time in the racing industry can be traced back to where he belongs. Raised in Virginia, Marion was heavily involved in the NASCAR Late Model Sportsman Series, the series now known as the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
From a young age, Smith spent his time in the local racing scene, traveling with the teams that competed in the Sportsman Series. Along the way, he worked with many different organizations and competed with his own car for several years. Despite his success behind the wheel, Smith decided his career would take a different path.
“I didn’t have enough money,” Smith said. “I ran well for what I had, but decided I needed to move to Charlotte.” “I got a job with Roger Penske when they started working; I think I was the eighth employee he hired.”
After entering the Cup Series, Smith’s path saw him work with several different teams – including as crew chief for Team 77. In various roles, he worked with many notable drivers such as Rusty Wallace, Joe Nemechek and the late Kenny Irwin Jr. He came to Hendrick Motorsports in 1999 with Team Number 5 driver Terry Labonte and has also worked with Kyle Busch, Casey Merz and Mark Martin.
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Smith is currently working with Team #9 at Chase Elliott, ensuring that the setup is correct before the car hits the track. This year, the introduction of the Next Generation Car has changed the way this process is done. With all parts going to teams from the same vendors – as opposed to racing teams who build them on their own – many organizations have modified their practices around this new car. However, Smith notes that the same principles still apply in creating a winning race car that were present in his early days as a mechanic.
“You can make it as difficult as you like,” Smith said. “You can make it as fancy as you like. But the end result is the same.” “You have to keep it simple. The more complex the more errors and problems you create.”
For the team itself, Smith’s work was an essential part of the winning formula. Elliott has racked up four wins (most in a Cup series) and a regular season championship so far in 2022.
As the team heads to Texas Motor Speedway for Sunday’s race, Elliott sits at the top of the points standings with a 31-point cushion above the cut-off line. Watch the action from Lone Star State at 3:30 p.m. ET on USA Network, PRN Radio, and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90).