By Aaron Bearden, Open Wheel Editor
MADISON, Ill. — Zane Smith lost ground to championship leader Sheldon Creed at Gateway Motorsports Park, finishing seven laps down in 16th while Creed drove off to a dominant victory in the PapaNicholas Coffee 150.
That’s okay, though. Smith isn’t worried about it.
“I’d rather have wins than championships in this kind of racing,” Smith told Motorsports Tribune. “I’m just going for wins, and that’s what I was doing.”
Smith was battling with Gus Dean inside of the top five on Lap 75 when he lost control of his No. 41 Toyota, sliding up above the racing surface and into the outside wall. The MDM Motorsports ace was able to continue on afterward, but the damage to his machine led to seven lost laps as his team implemented repairs.
The Californian could only limp home with a disappointing result while Creed stormed off to a win that will see his former 55-point lead balloon into a much larger advantage as the ARCA Racing Series field heads into the second half of the 2018 season.
Afterward Smith believed there was little he could do to avoid the wreck on a night that proved challenging for all competitors that dared to attempt passes.
“When you get the air packed on your right side, you’re just along for the ride,” he said. “With the repave and that PJ1, (the track) was really just one groove, I would say.
“I had the No. 32 (Gus Dean) to my outside, and it just sucked me around and up into the fence. It sucks, but I was just going for it.”
Smith’s 16th-place finish was his second-worst result of the year, better only than his 26th-place effort at Daytona International Speedway in February. The finish was only Smith’s third outside of the top five in the opening 10 races of 2018.
Despite losing a sizable amount of points to Creed, Smith remained confident about his title chances after overcoming a similar deficit earlier in the year.
The 19-year-old believes he just needs to continue to chase checkered flags. If they come, the series title should follow suit.
“We’re halfway into the season,” he said. “At Daytona I was 150 points behind, and a few races later I was leading the standings. So I’m not really that worried about it.
“I’m just going to keep going for wins.”
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