RACING

Mamba Smith’s unique journey of passion, camaraderie hits IRP for ARCA Menards series debut

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Dylan “Mamba” Smith’s unofficial title as a NASCAR employee is Chief Hype Officer. For him, this designation means his duty is to make sure those around him have a good time.

It’s a simple task for someone who so naturally radiates pleasure.

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Smith’s engaging personality is part of the reason he seems to befriend everyone he meets in the motorsports industry. And those relationships are part of why the 30-year-old is set to make his ARCA Menards Series debut in the Reese’s 200 at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park on July 29.

RELATED: What you need to know about Reese’s 200 at IRP

Smith, a Haitian who grew up in Randolph, Vermont under his adoptive parents, will race the 0.686-mile asphalt oval in Tyler Young’s Chevrolet with support from NASCAR Xfinity Series driver AJ Allmendinger . Smith considers the two close friends.

This isn’t the first time Mamba’s peers have backed his driving efforts. A few years ago, for example, Smith raced a late model in the Snowflake 100 at Florida’s Five Flags Speedway, thanks in part to the sponsorship of his buddies Bubba Wallace and Ryan Blaney.

At this point, Smith doesn’t consider himself a racer, although he enjoys competing live at least once a year. In fact, if he wants to perform well at the IRP, winning isn’t necessarily the goal. He’s more focused on enjoying cold post-race drinks alongside his friends with, he hopes, all four fenders still on the car.

“I’m not trying to do Cup races; that’s not what I expect from it,” Smith said with his contagious smile. “I want to enjoy the experience. I’m really looking forward to opening a few beers with the guys after the race and sitting out on pit road for a minute and enjoying it.

It is a point of happiness that Smith has reached in his life and career. And for him, the trip is at the limit of the inexplicable.

Bubba Wallace, Ryan Blaney and Mamba Smith

Smith’s passion for motorsport came early, when at the age of 4 his father began taking him to Thunder Road, a cobbled quarter-mile oval about a 30-minute drive from their Vermont home.

“The cars, the colors, the racing – that atmosphere was awesome,” Smith said. “It was so much fun. And I was like, ‘I want to do this.’

Smith convinced his parents to get him into go-kart racing, and his father, a carpenter, taught himself how to be his son’s mechanic by reading chassis books.

Success came immediately.

Smith estimates that he and his father have won between 90 and 100 go-kart races together. And those early victories were key to developing his passion for racing.

“That’s probably why we left it there,” Smith said. “When you win, you’re like, ‘It’s a fun feeling.’ We did that a lot in the beginning.

Mamba Smith
Kyle Larson and Mamba Smith

Smith won an Allison Legacy North Championship before moving to late model racing at Thunder Road at age 16, which was young for this division of Vermont. He finally got a call to attend NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity combine in North Carolina.

Smith performed well in his first combine, but was not offered a spot in that year’s development class. He was, however, offered a job at Rev Racing. He always refused it in pursuit of his racing career.

The following year, Smith was again denied a spot on the team, but the job offer stood. This time he took it and he became a mechanic for Rev Racing despite, he says, barely knowing how to read a tape measure.

Rev Racing’s Smith has developed a relationship with those around him. He also developed his notoriety in the world of motorsport thanks to his participation in iRacing. The team had a platform at the store, where Smith competed online from the time he finished work each day until the early hours of the morning.

Rev Racing also owned a Legend Car, which Smith drove in the 2012 Summer Shootout at Charlotte Motor Speedway. That same year, Smith worked as an interior mechanic for then-Rev Racing driver Kyle Larson, who won the championship in what is now the ARCA Menards Series East.

Smith the following year took a job with Stewart-Haas Racing, which saw driver Kevin Harvick win the 2014 NASCAR Cup Series championship.

“So now I have a championship with Kyle Larson and a championship with Kevin Harvick,” Smith joked. “And then they found out I was running.”

RACING REFERENCE: Mamba Smith’s statistics so far

Smith considers the summer of 2014 among his favorite times in life so far. Haas Automation sponsored his final model efforts, and he and his friend Danny Johnson as a two-man team raced throughout North and South Carolina. He at one point found himself in the top 40 of what is now the weekly NASCAR Advance Auto Parts series.

The following year he was finally selected as a member of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Program class, so he spent 2015 racing for Rev Racing. He then left that and his duties at Stewart-Haas to join MDM Motorsports, a racing team that operated from 2017 to 2018. It was at MDM that Smith moved from the mechanical side of racing to the communications department. He was Wallace’s public relations assistant when the Cup Series driver won a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Michigan International Speedway.

When the team shut down after the 2018 season, Smith was left out of the race. He was out of the sport for about three years before NASCAR called him.

Mamba Smith

Smith’s schedule as NASCAR’s Chief Hype Officer is fluid. He appears as an analyst on Mondays on Backseat Drivers, a NASCAR YouTube show that brings together various industry figures to discuss and debate topics surrounding the sport. Every two weeks he hosts Mark, Mamba and The Mayor, a podcast featuring Mark Martin and Jeff Burton.

Beyond that, he can be found wandering around NASCAR headquarters or race tracks and, depending on his job title, raising the spirits of those around him.

That’s exactly what he was doing at a local restaurant when the dream of his first ARCA start started to turn into reality. Smith of this establishment explained to Allmendinger his desire. After being teased with an ARCA race in 2015 but ultimately not getting the chance to race, Smith was still hungry for opportunity.

“I raced in Myrtle Beach. I ran the Snowflake 100,” Smith said. “I’m like, ‘Man, I’ve done these races, and they’re fun and awesome, but if it costs me this , if I can find a little more, I can run an ARCA race.””

Allmendinger asked his friend how much money was needed, and soon after Smith was signing an agreement on a paper napkin which stated that Allmendinger would put up $8,000.

“I was like, ‘OK, I guess we’ll try to do this thing now.'” Smith said with a laugh.

Mamba Smith and AJ Allmendinger
Mamba Smith and AJ Allmendinger

Smith’s friendship with Young, who has both a Truck Series operation and an ARCA Menards Series team, made finding a ride relatively simple. Smith and Young had been talking for years about working together this way. Once Smith was able to secure funding from Allmendinger, friend Austin Craven of Team Dillon Management, Maestro’s Classic and Elliott’s Custom Trailers and Carts, everything was in place for an entry. Smith’s car at IRP will also feature his Mark, Mamba and The Mayor podcast.

“Tyler Young has been a good friend of mine for a very long time, and letting me drive his race car means a lot to him,” Smith said. “Tyler is one of the most down-to-earth guys around. He went from being a retired driver to being an owner at a very young age. He built this great team.

Smith makes his ARCA debut because he wants to compete. But at the end of the day, the relationships he has with people like Young are what make the effort worthwhile.

He admits working with friends in many spaces can be difficult, but not here. It’s just fun. In this regard, Smith is simply doing his job.

“The friendship and the brotherhood and the bond between me and some if the pilots – a lot of us grew up together,” Smith said. “Some of them have reached a point. Some of them have supported me in the past, and they know I would do the same for them. It’s about respect.

“They know I like it. I’m not doing it just for fun. It’s also my passion.”

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