Peachtree City racer impresses at Pocono
In his very first ARCA (Automobile Racing Club of America) start, Peachtree City’s own Garrett Smithley, in the No.74 HEROBOX.org Chevy Impala SS gave a strong, clean showing in the ARCA 200 presented by Menards at the Pocono International Raceway (PIR) in Long Pond, Penn.
Smithley overcame multiple challenges to bring home a 17th place finish after starting at the very back of the field. The race was broadcast live nationally on Fox Sports Speed TV.
Friday practice and qualifying were cancelled due to a steady rain that continued throughout the day, forcing Garrett to start at the back of the pack. “We really needed that practice session to shake down the car and allow me to get comfortable with the three distinctive turns at “The Tricky Triangle,” Smithley explained. As a result he logged a total of eight laps in a shortened practice session prior to the race, only four of which were at race speeds.
Car owner and former Daytona 500 champion Derrike Cope did a lot of coaching with Smithley prior to the race, since “that’s all we had due to the weather.”
Two veteran members of the Cope-Creation Racing team couldn’t even get to the track due to cancelled flights, resulting in a short pit crew. CCR Team Manager Andy Woolgar was pressed into service as jack man and even Smithley’s father R.K. contributed to the effort by waving the pit sign to signal the stopping point for the No.74 car.
Garrett noted, “We had no opportunity to practice pit stops due to the cancelled practice session so my first pit stop in the car was just after halfway in the race under green flag conditions. That put us under a real disadvantage since I had never done that before, but surprisingly it went very well from the driver seat.”
Unfortunately, a rear tire bounced away from the crew across pit road, incurring a one lap penalty. To add insult to injury the caution flag came out just two laps later that put Smithley down two full laps to the leaders.
Garrett’s father stated, “that pit stop was just a killer. Had we completed even an average pit stop Garrett would have brought home at least a 12th place finish and would have been knocking on the door of a top ten, which is completely amazing under the circumstances!”
Following the 80-lap race the entire CCR team was “pumped,” in the words of Derrike Cope.
“I can speak for the whole CCR team when I say that we were very impressed with the way Garrett approached this race, and equally so with his execution,” said team owner Andy Woolgar. “He showed a level of maturity you rarely see in a race car driver his age, and he showed patience. He came with a mindset to listen, learn and finish the race, and was rewarded with an excellent finishing position considering where he had to start the event.” He added, “Pocono is no easy nut to crack, but he did it and I hope he is able to capitalize on this opportunity. We certainly look forward to working with him again in future NASCAR events."
Post-race, Smithley was surrounded in the garage area by many family members and friends who had come from Peachtree City, Kentucky and Western Pennsylvania to congratulate him on his strong showing the first time in an ARCA car.
Dave Marin of Peachtree City Golf Cars who put Garrett in his first Legend car made the long trip from Georgia to see his former driver at Pocono. “I wouldn’t have missed this for anything,” Marin said.
Smithley added, “I could have never made it nearly this far without quality sponsors so I have to thank them all, especially HEROBOX.org who rode with us on the hood today.” Smithley filmed a short segment at the track for the local Fox News 11 Atlanta station that aired live on Sunday night that featured HEROBOX.org, a Tyrone, GA non-profit organization, which sends needed packages to combat troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“This race was for the troops, who I can’t thank enough for the sacrifices they make every single day and their families too,” Smithley stated. “Please go to HEROBOX.org and make a donation even if it’s just five dollars so we can get these packages sent to troops who really need them. Make sure you put Garrett Smithley in the dedication line so we can show HEROBOX that my race fans are the greatest!” Sailors deployed on the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Nimitz who are HEROBOX.org beneficiaries were also following Garrett’s race progress and chatting with him pre-race on Twitter and Facebook.
Other valued sponsors were Curtsinger Trailer and Truck Sales (Lexington, KY), Peachtree City Golf Cars, Zelk Visual Communications, Peachtree City, Racerboost.com, Simpson Racing Products and Focus Eyewear.
Smithley is looking forward to working with Derrike Cope, Andy Woolgar and the entire CCR organization for future races. “The search continues to find a quality sponsor so we can commit to our next race, hopefully Chicagoland in July,” Garrett said. “We need help to make it happen, but based on our strong Pocono showing I am confident we can do it.”
Garrett Smithley is a 2010 graduate of MacIntosh High School and is the son of R.K. and Bethanie Smithley of Peachtree City. He is employed as a driving instructor with the Richard Petty Driving Experience, Concord, NC.