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When Brady Smith raced junior late models in Grand Bend, Branden Verhoeven was roaring around in a sprint car.
When Smith tried his luck in the truck division at Delaware Speedway, Verhoeven rocked the super stocks.
They always seemed to miss each other — until now.
The speedsters are tied in the points parade atop the rebooted Case ‘N Drum Oil late model series, but one of them will jump in front after a rare triple-feature on tap Friday at Delaware.
“I don’t try to look at the points this early in the season,” the 24-year-old Smith said, “but it’s kind of cool to be tied with him, leading the way. I’m from Coldstream and he’s from Kerwood, which isn’t too far away. We’re both going pretty good and I think it’ll come down to Brandon and I (for the title), hopefully.”
Verhoeven has two feature wins to Smith’s one. Both have four top-five finishes in four starts so far. There have already been two rain-outs, so this extended program is a shot at racking up some extra track time while the gettin’s good.
There’s still plenty to iron out in all programs.
“We’ve tested the past three Mondays,” Smith said. “The late models have a new tire this year. It used to be running on a 10-inch slick tire. Now, we’re on eight-inch and we’ve had to do a lot of set-up to get the car figured out.
“A lot of guys are chasing their cars right now trying to figure this new tire out, but it’s a lot more affordable for the lower-budget guys and the racing has been competitive.”
The Smith checkered flag in May was a milestone moment. It was his first late model win in his No. 39 outfit.
“We finally got one after a long three years,” he said. “It was pretty awesome. We put in a lot of hours and we don’t go to McColl (Racing Enterprises) and get all the work done like a lot of the big-money teams. We do it all ourselves and to win, it all paid off and the results finally showed.”
Smith started at age 12, so he’s been racing half his life.
“It doesn’t feel that long,” he quipped. “I’m a first-generation driver, but my dad got me into it. Growing up, I saw it on TV, always had an interest in cars and just wanted to go fast.”
Last year, the late model program was pared back to a triple crown set, so Smith doubled up with some part-time truck duty. His old truck is now driven by Lucas Manning at the track.
“Last year, we had a bit of a tough year,” he said. “There was a lot of stuff we had to do set-up to get the truck where it needed to be, and we just didn’t get there. Driving the truck was fun, don’t get me wrong, but late models is cream of the crop.
“It’s nice to race with the fastest guys.”
And it’s a challenge to figure things out on the fly.
Smith is an engineer by trade, courtesy of three years of study at Fanshawe College. He has a job at General Dynamics.
“I get to work on army tanks at work, so it’s a little bit different than race cars,” he said, “and there’s so much you can do with these cars now.”
There is a motor restriction in place the local late model class, which would allow for top super stocks and truck racers to jump up without considerable expense.
“That’s what we’re hoping for,” Smith said. “We’d like to see the car counts rise and this will be the next stop for a lot of those guys.”
Until then, he’s locked in one of the better season-long duels with Verhoeven.
That’s been a long time coming.
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AT THE TRACK
Friday night at Delaware Speedway
Lineup: Late models triple feature, trucks, bone stocks. Gates open at 6 p.m., racing starts at 7:30 p.m.
Brady Smith No. 39 sponsor roll call: Dekalb seed, BASF agriculture, Cargill, Ferguson Fancy Beans, Mapleview Farms, Lobo ag-services, Fairway golf, Straightline Collision, Pastos restaurant.
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