What’s Happening?

Zane Smith is finally getting his chance at NASCAR’s top level in 2024. After four years in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, Smith will race for Spire Motorsports in the 71 car, but, Smith is technically there on loan since he is under contract with Trackhouse. It’s a bit confusing, but, the bottom line is that Smith is a full-time NASCAR Cup Series driver. With that in mind, what does he have to prove in 2024?

  • Zane Smith is the 2022 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Champion. He was originally supposed to move up to the Cup Series in 2022 with Chip Ganassi Racing, but, Ganassi was bought out by, ironically enough, Justin Marks and Trackhouse. 2024 truly is a full-circle moment for Smith.
  • Smith spent the last two seasons with Front Row Motorsports in the Truck Series. Many thought he could move up to Cup with the team in 2024, but, FRM decided to stick with Michael McDowell and Todd Gilliland as the two drivers.
  • Fans are excited to see what Zane Smith can do in 2024. Spire Motorsports is an up-and-coming race team, and Smith has the backing of one of the top teams in the sport, Trackhouse.

Can He Win Rookie of the Year?

This is a relatively low-pressure scenario for Smith. He is not expected to win races right off the starting block, and it’s not a must for him to make the Playoffs either. It’s good to strive for those things for sure, but, what Smith is gunning for is that Rookie of the Year Award.

Smith goes up against Carson Hocevar and Josh Berry for the Rookie of the Year Award, and it should be a tight battle. Hocevar and Smith are teammates, so, both drivers will be measuring themselves against each other in 2024. Josh Berry may be in the longest-established race team, but, Stewart-Haas Racing is not what they once were.

The equipment seems potentially equal, so the award is likely wide open for 2024. Those are the drivers Smith needs to ultimately measure himself against. If he can consistently beat Carson Hocevar and Josh Berry every week, odds are Smith is having a pretty good season. Especially if Smith can be Hocevar consistently.

As time goes on, the expectations will grow for Smith. However, given his equipment and lack of experience, all parties should temper those expectations some. It’s not going to be an easy year, but, as long as he keeps his eye on the prize, he should be just fine.

Can He Prove Front Row Motorsports Wrong?

It doesn’t seem that Zane Smith has any ill will toward those at Front Row Motorsports. However, given how Silly Season shook out, he will be compared to them for a while. In three, four, or five years, the question will be, “Did FRM make the right/wrong decision letting Zane Smith go?”

Regardless of how everything in silly season shook out, that’s what people on the outside will look at. If FRM goes on a tear and Smith struggles, then people will wonder why Smith didn’t just wait one more year. If FRM struggles and Smith thrives, then FRM let its best prospect go.

In an ideal world, everything works out for both sides equally and we all sing Kumbaya in the garage area after the race, but, this is the pinnacle of stock car racing. Performance is king, and there is no such thing as a tie. Someone is going to win, and someone is going to lose.

Smith wants to come out on the winning end of this. It’s going to be a major part of his legacy, regardless of whether he wants it to or not. It’s going to be interesting both this year and in the years following how FRM and Smith fare without each other.

Smith has to both prove that he belongs in the Cup Series and that his previous team made a mistake in letting him go. He will be a driver to watch in 2024 and in subsequent years as well.