With a pair of victories, it’s safe to say the Charlie Smith who won a championship in the past at Barrie Speedway was back in full force this past season at Sunset Speedway.
“2016 was an amazing season,” Smith told Short Track Musings. “I went into it not thinking I would accomplish anything after a horrible 2015. After a lot of thrashing and setup experimentation, I found myself running towards the top six or seven. That gave me the burn to keep working and the next thing I knew I was running away with things. It was unbelievable to return to top form. It turned a lot of heads.”
Kicking off the season, Smith showed potential right from the start with an eighth place finish on his first night of competition, May 28. He then kept the momentum rolling as the finishes kept getting better each week. After scoring a sixth to kick off June, he followed it up with a fifth, and then a runner-up. The night that he put the fans on notice, though, was June 17 when he and teammate Mike Robinson Jr. pulled off a one-two finish.
“He said in the winter we could do it, and on the final restart of that feature, I couldn’t believe that opportunity was in front of us,” Smith said.
Being able to work alongside Mike Robinson Jr. and his family as a teammate has been a joy for Smith.
“We just click,” Smith said. “We bounce ideas off of each other, and most important is that he wants to win as bad as I do. Those guys work hard and don’t cut corners. Work hard, treat others with respect, and don’t let the bad things get you down. That’s Mike Robinson Jr.”
The momentum kept rolling through the summer, as he pulled off a fourth to go along with another pair of victories – including a hat trick on July 23.
“Being fortunate enough to run with Andy (Kamrath) in the Dash for the win and come out on top was one of the greatest feelings I’ve had in years,” Smith said. “I knew I was running against the best, and it was just an honor to be running alongside that caliber of competition.”
With solid results in his back pocket, Smith says he’s heading into this season with a refreshed attitude based on the changes coming to Sunset Speedway with a new manager changing “the whole feel around the place”, and the schedule being 21 nights long. He hopes the attitude pays off in a big way – a championship.
“After last season we know the car is fast enough,” he said. “Being consistent, finishing races, and not letting the long grind wear you out will be key to being in the top three by September. My only question is how I will stack up next to Andy’s new ride if he runs every week, and without question you will have to be able to go the distance each and every week against Doug Butler if he does return. If you want to run with Doug you have to have your program in line, and not make any mistakes on the track, because he always gets to the front.”
The level of competition, and toughness to come this season, will also come about as a result of the pair of Mini Stock divisions being combined together, something Smith says is “the best thing for this class and the track in general”.
“The nights will be shorter and everyone will be able to show up later and go home earlier,” Smith said. “Having the class divided was creating to much of a divide between the fast cars and the slow cars. That track can handle 30 cars on it; we see it every year at Velocity. If people don’t like getting spanked every week, they need to pull up their socks and get better, or go play golf. Mark Dilley used to say, ‘We ain’t bowling, we’re racing, and sometimes racing sucks’.”
For his support, Smith wants to thank Steve McLeod at MS Metal Products.