Mamba Smith will be making his long-awaited ARCA Menards Series debut driving the No. 02 Young’s Motorsports entry at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park on July 29th. The entry will have sponsorship from Smith’s podcast Mark, Mamba and The Mayor, Maestro’s Classic, The Tony Elliott Foundation and Elliott’s Custom Trailers and Carts.
In an interview with TobyChristie.com, the 30-year old Smith says the deal came together after a casual conversation with Austin Craven at Team Dillon Management.
“It actually started by talking to Austin Craven,” Smith explained. “We were talking about how he put the deal together for Bubba Wallace to run the MDM Motorsports truck at Michigan. I was the PR guy for that at the time. We were talking and he was like, you know we could probably make something work if you could find some partners.”
From there, Smith went digging for partners to help him fund the ride. A dinner with personal friend and full-time NASCAR Xfinity Series driver and part-time NASCAR Cup Series driver AJ Allmendinger led to Smith securing a large portion of what he needed to run the race.
“So, we were kind of mulling it around and I was talking to AJ Allmendinger about it and he was like, ‘What do you need?’ I told him and he was like, ‘Well, I’ll be in for $8,000.’ I’m like, okay,” Smith recalled. “We were sitting at Boatyard Eats and he wrote the contract out on a napkin. At that point, we were moving forward.”
Back on May 13th, Smith tweeted a photo of Allmendinger and himself holding the “napkin contract”.
The best deals are done at Boatyard Eats… @AJDinger 🤝🏾 Mamba.
The road to @RaceIRP has officially started. Still looking for a couple more partners.
— Black Mamba (@MambaSmith34) May 13, 2022
Dillon Crow of Lowline Livery designed the paint scheme, which was unveiled later in the day on Thursday. The scheme is based off of Allmendinger’s car from his first ChampCar win at Portland International Raceway back in 2006.
Here is the official paint scheme reveal, which was shared by ARCA on Thursday:
And a surprise for @AJDinger!@MambaSmith34 will run a paint scheme based on AJ’s first ChampCar win back in 2006 pic.twitter.com/TsuOWy1Wja
— ARCA Menards Series (@ARCA_Racing) July 21, 2022
While this will mark the first-ever ARCA Menards Series start for the driver, who grew up in Vermont, he has been chasing the dream of making a start in ARCA for years.
“Definitely been on my radar for almost my entire life,” Smith stated. “IRP is one of my favorite race tracks. There’s probably only one track on the NASCAR circuit that I would want to race on more, and that’s Loudon just because it’s home. Honestly, I wasn’t sure. I was starting to think I would never make it to this stage.
“I had one opportunity to make an ARCA or K&N start back in 2015 and last minute, a couple of days before, the seat got pulled out from under me. So, it just didn’t feel like it was ever going to happen. Now that it is, it’s pretty surreal.”
For Smith, IRP will mark his first time actually driving an ARCA race car around a race track competitively.
“I have driven multiple ARCA cars from the frontstretch to victory lane and back to the trailer. I’ve done a lot of drivetrain testing, where you strap the car to the engine dyno and just hold it wide open. So, I’ve got some experience,” Smith joked.
While Smith has cut his teeth on short tracks across the country including Five Flags Speedway, Hickory Motor Speedway and Thunder Road International Speedbowl, he only has the budget for around one race per year, as things stand right now.
Typically, Smith runs during Snowball Derby weekend at Five Flags Speedway in the Snowflake 100, but he will be a little busy during the 2022 Snowflake Derby, which is what led to him pursuing this ARCA race.
“I do one race a year. I’ll be the officiant at a wedding that is the same weekend as the Snowflake,” Smith explained. “So, instead of racing the Snowflake, I’ll be marrying my two friends. So, I had to find another race to go run and this seemed like a good one to do.”
So, how will he prepare for his ARCA debut?
“That’s the hard part, right? Not being on track. I actually sold my iRacing rig right before COVID, which was dumb, but I had no idea COVID was coming,” Smith chuckled. “I haven’t iRaced in a while. I’ll be relying heavily on my instincts. The Snowflake race, making it and competing in it is harder than what I’m about to go do in the ARCA race, honestly with the amount of talent in the garage — drivers and the crew members. I’ll watch some video and work out, but as far as working on the craft, I don’t really have a ton of time to do that right now. I’ll be going in a little cold turkey, but that’s alright.”
Smith says a seventh to 10th-place finish is a very achievable goal with his equipment and he just wants to bring the car home in one piece for Young’s Motorsports.
While Smith hopes for a good run on the track, he’s also excited about bringing more attention to IRP and short track racing as NASCAR will be following him around to film a docuseries called The Road to Indy which will be available on all of the NASCAR digital platforms.
If things go well at IRP, could an impressive finish lead to more ARCA starts or even a NASCAR National Series start for Smith down the line?
“I would say you never know, right? I’m doing this race because I love to race, I’m doing it because I want to help promote short track racing and I’m doing it because I love IRP,” Smith said. “If someone comes along and is like, ‘Hey, man, we’d love to work with you and do some more races,’ absolutely. I’ll drive anything. I’ll drive a wheelbarrow and race that.”
Smith is the true definition of a grinder. He has stepped into just about every role you can in the industry as he’s been a driver, a crew member, a media personality, a PR person and now a podcast host as well.
While Smith feels thankful for everything he’s done in the sport to this point in his life, he feels especially honored to be paired with Mark Martin and Jeff Burton on the Mark, Mamba and the Mayor Podcast.
“The podcast, Mark, Mamba and the Mayor with Mark, myself and Jeff is so cool,” Smith said. “I get to listen to stories from Mark and Jeff and pick their brain, add my input, but really just being on that plateau of people you look up to and being looked at as an equal, it doesn’t get any better than that. They could have picked anyone to do this podcast with, so, the fact they picked me to be the third wheel is pretty cool.”
Maybe, just maybe, Mark and Jeff will allow Mamba to tell his story of his first-career ARCA start in an episode following the race at IRP on July 29th.