Back behind the wheel, and it feels so good for Dylan “Mamba” Smith, as he will tackle the short-track gem that is Hickory Motor Speedway on Saturday, May 29th.
While his name hasn’t been on track in some time, those on social media will recognize the driver of the No. 34 GoPro Motorplex Late Model instantly.
Teaming up with Bryan Rodgers once again, Smith will make his return to the track for the first time in 2021. While a full-time driving career isn’t necessarily in the cards, Smith’s love for racing, as is any driver’s, is hard to extinguish no matter how long they’ve been outside the car.
Enter Justin Marks, co-owner of Trackhouse Racing in the NASCAR Cup Series. A casual conversation between the two drivers helped solidify a deal that was months away.
As Smith explained, “We were sitting on the pit wall at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola doing the Snowflake, and he’s like ‘so what are you trying to do?’ I told him I wanted to race more, but it’s tough and he said that he’d sponsor a couple of races. He’s got so much going on with Trackhouse, and his own short track racing that it caught me off guard. But Justin’s a good dude, he appreciates good people. I feel very honored that he is supporting me with the GoPro colors.”
The No. 34 being on the door and roof of Smith’s late model, designed by Dillon Crow of LowLine Livery Designs, is no random decision. His self described ‘everything good’ that happened during his racing career thus far has happened with a No. 34 on the door. The number holds a special meaning for Vermont driver, right down to all his social media channels featuring the number in his handles. As one of the few African-American drivers on the track in the local scene, Smith pays homage to one of the pioneers and barrier breakers of his race in NASCAR Hall Of Famer, Wendell Scott. Smith says it’s a personal way to tip his cap to Scott, and the Wendell Scott Foundation.
“In order to know where we are going, we have to remember where we’ve been,” Smith explained. “When I say that, it’s not motorsports as a whole, but for me personally obviously being a person of color.”
While being out of the car for a prolonged period of time, The 28-year-old’s demanding work schedule has made navigating a return difficult. Any given week, he’s working for a variety of auto-related events involving Ferrari Challenge, and the Dodge Thrill Ride Tour.
He’s keeping his expectations down to earth, expecting to keep a clean car and squeezing out what the car can handle. But he acknowledges that his craft is in need of some work.
“I used to be able to do that a lot, whether it was with iRacing or other things,” Smith said. “I just don’t have the resources right now to do what I got to do to be consistent. I am not racing enough is the bottom line. Bryan (Rogers) wants to go to the Snowflake again this year, which obviously I want to go. But my stipulation was that I am not going back if I don’t race a couple of times this year.”
Smith, Bubba, and Blaney
Smith isn’t a random driver with no background in racing either. He attended the NASCAR Divertsy Combine in the late 2000s, where he ended up meeting some young hotshot driver name Darrell “Bubba” Wallace.
So where does Ryan Blaney fit into this mixture? Smith was already friends with Blaney’s older sister Emma, where they often spent time together in the same friend group attending parties and social gatherings. Through those classic Friday and Saturday night gatherings, Bubba helped bridge the friendship between Smith and the Team Penske driver, a friendship that continues today between all three.
— Black Mamba (@MambaSmith34) May 7, 2021
The infectious personality of Smith fits right in with the trio and even Blaney’s family. Being adopted at a young age, Smith has found another family in the Blaney household. Calling Blaney one of the most genuine people he’s ever met, Smith believes many may perceive the quiet, collected Blaney differently.
As Smith explained, “One of the things that I think many people won’t know that don’t understand him, is that he is a fiery dude. He is a passionate guy when it comes to racing when it comes to the family when it comes to friendships. He’s definitely the type of person you want in your circle – he’s always got your back.”
Blaney even extended a hand In sponsoring his friend, when the Ryan Blaney Family Foundation was featured on a late model driven by Smith.
His outgoing personality makes social media a viable avenue for Smith to extend his own brand and his message.
For those who follow Smith, it’s likely a guarantee you’ve seen “#GDTBA” on his social media posts. It’s a mantra that he lives by every single day. But what does it actually mean and where did it come from?
The meaning stems from a song of the same name – “It’s A Great Day To Be Alive” by Travis Tritt. Smith didn’t spot it on his own, it actually came from a friend.
Nick Drake, who runs a lot of dirt stuff, starting posting it on Twitter and Snapchat so I texted him asking ‘what does it mean,'” Smith said. “He said that ‘People are so negative all the time, and I was sick of seeing it. So it means Great Day To Be Alive, I got it from that song’ so I thought that I could get down with that.”
But the hashtag isn’t just for show – it’s his life motto and direction. Smith is often seen on social media posting motivational messages in the mornings with the hashtag. Members of the NASCAR community chime in utilizing the same hashtag and never forgetting to tag Smith.
This way of life for Smith has helped crafted him into one of the most charismatic personalities in the NASCAR community, and one to always offer his own wisdom.
“I try not to tide the emotional rollercoaster because your highs are super high but that mean your lows will be equally as low as your highs being high,” Smith explained.”You want to try and stay somewhere in between. Acknowledge the great moments – without the bad ones, it’s hard to know what is great.”