Pairs with Noah Gragson for Full Season Effort with 55-Toyota Team
Announced Friday, seventeen year-old Zane Smith has signed on with Venturini Motorsports (VMS) to pilot the No.55 Toyota Camry during the 2017 ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards season.
Smith, a native of Huntington Beach, California, will appear in 18 of 20 scheduled series events starting at the second race of the season in Nashville. Due to ARCA age restrictions, Smith will not participate at Daytona Int’l Speedway or Talladega Superspeedway as both tracks require drivers to meet the minimum age of 18.
Taking the reins in Smith’s two race absence will be 18-year old, Las Vegas product Noah Gragson. Gragson, who recently signed with Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) for a full season effort in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS), will drive VMS’s No.55 in the ARCA season opener at Daytona International Speedway (February 18) and again at Talladega Superspeedway (May 5).
Gragson will also pilot the No. 15 VMS Toyota entry at Pocono Raceway (July 28) and Chicagoland Speedway (September 14).
Sponsorship announcements for both Zane Smith and Noah Gragson will come at a later date.
Smith’s 2017 schedule includes; Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville (April 8), Salem Speedway (April 30), Toledo Speedway (May 21), Elko Speedway (June 3), Pocono Raceway (June 9) Michigan Int’l Speedway (June 16), Madison Int’l Speedway (June 23), Iowa Speedway (July 8), Lucas Oil Raceway (July 21), Pocono Raceway (July 28), Winchester Speedway (August 6), Illinois State Fairgrounds (August 20), Road America (August 27), DuQuoin State Fairgrounds (September 4), Salem Speedway (September 9), Chicagoland Speedway (September 14), Kentucky Speedway (September 22), and Kansas Speedway (October 20).
“Joining Venturini Motorsports and having the opportunity to race in the ARCA series is definitely one of the biggest highlights of my career,” says Smith. “The last couple of seasons I’ve bounced around series to series running a bunch of different super late model races. It’s going to be awesome to concentrate my efforts primarily in one series with one team. I’m pumped – this Venturini team is as good as they get in ARCA. As a racer it doesn’t get much more exciting than to look ahead at our schedule knowing I’ll be racing at some of the best tracks in the country.”
Running for SCOTT Rookie of the Year honors, Smith will be teamed with crew chief Billy Venturini. Smith joins a potent 55-team which finished second in the 2016 ARCA national point standings and won the General Tire Superspeedway Challenge.
Venturini Motorsports has delivered the rookie of the year twice in the last four seasons. Dalton Sargeant earned the honors in 2016 and Justin Boston won the award in 2013.
“I’m really excited to have Zane and Noah as part of our program for 2017,” said team owner and crew chief Billy Venturini. “I have high expectations for Noah to start the season out strong at Daytona for the 55 team before handing the reins off to Zane. Zane has already displayed an incredible amount of speed in the ARCA car and is a proven winner. I couldn’t be more excited working with such a talented young man for this coming season. I think having both Smith and Gragson teamed up this year will give us a great chance to compete for the Owner’s Championship.”
Smith, who made his first career ARCA appearances with Venturini Motorsports late in the 2016 season was impressive at both Salem and Kentucky Speedway. Considered by many as one of the top driver prospects in the country, Smith gained national recognition in 2015 when we won the overall Super Late Model championship at the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at New Smyrna Speedway (FL). During his breakout season the talented teen recorded three PASS South Wins and a CARS Super Late Model Tour win. Capping off a successful ’15 season, Smith finished second at the prestigious Snowball Derby – runner up to this year’s current NASCAR Sprint Cup Series leading Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender, Chase Elliot.
VMS, known for their success developing young drivers in the ARCA Series, has recorded 43-team victories during their longstanding series involvement. Thirty of those series victories have come since 2008.