Garrett Smithley shows what determination can do

Courtesy photo Danny Hansen

By Jerry Jordan, Editor

TALLADEGA, Ala. – Coming off the best finish of his NASCAR Xfinity Series career last week at Richmond International Raceway, Garrett Smithley shed tears of joy following an even better 12th place run Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway – holding his own throughout the race and avoiding several crashes that could have ended his day early.

It’s not an insult to call Smithley’s team underfunded, it’s a fact. Driving for JD Motorsports with limited sponsorship dollars, Smithley knows the importance of buying tires and keeping cars in one piece. Team owner, Johnny Davis, isn’t a start-and-parker but he doesn’t have the budget of many of the other teams in the Xfinity garage. Still, his drivers have heart. And even though Smithley was brought to tears by his 12th place run, among the first words out of his mouth after climbing from the car was that the No. 0 Instalco Camaro was in good shape to race later this season at Daytona.

“I didn’t know where we crossed the line all the way down the backstretch, holy smokes, 13th (after NASCAR review he was moved to 12th) and we’ve still got a car for Daytona,” Smithley said. “That’s a victory right there.”

It was at that point where Smithley’s voice cracked and his emotions took over as he expressed his thanks for Tennesee-based Instalco, Johnny Davis and his entire team.

“I couldn’t do this without him,” Smithley said. “Words can’t explain just being here.”

As the closing laps ticked away, Smithley’s spotter, Bob Jeffrey, was a calming voice in his ears, encouraging him to hold his line and when to dig hard for position.

“The middle is the best line, stay where you’re at,” Jeffrey said, over the radio. “The 3’s on the outside, and you might get a push from behind. Steady. Hold your line.”

Those words may have made the difference between Smithley’s best-ever finish and one that was somewhere south of 30th. By staying in the middle and not getting greedy, Smithley didn’t get hung out to dry like several other drivers and the 24-year-old showed maturity and talent as he gained positions throughout the race.

Not unexpected at restrictor plate races, the final lap was chaotic as Joey Logano tried to hold off Elliott Sadler, Brennan Poole and Justin Allgaier for the win. He was unsuccessful and ended up spinning up the track and almost taking Smithley and several other drivers with him. If Smithley flinched it didn’t affect his performance or determination – he held the throttle and went through the smoke Days of Thunder style.

“I can’t believe, coming off a career-best at Richmond, another career-best at Talladega and we’ve got a clean car. That’s the number one thing right now; we have a car to go to Daytona,” Smithley said. “Bob Jeffrey is awesome. He was my hero Dale Jarrett’s spotter and he was Tony Stewart’s spotter. I don’t know if Tony taught him something, Dale taught him something or he just knew but I just trusted Bob and ended up in one piece.

“Just held it wide open, closed my eyes, a bad idea and went right through the middle kind of like Days of Thunder to just drive through the smoke and man, we came across the line about 12-wide. It was so awesome.”

Smithley’s run helped him hold onto his 18th spot in the Xfinity Series drivers points after moving up two last week after Richmond. Now, he has an off-week before coming back at Dover International Speedway, where he will run in the third Dash for Cash event of the season.

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