Zane Smith laps up dream NASCAR Cup Series debut for RFK Racing

For Zane Smith, to say his NASCAR Cup debut at Illinois was somewhat unexpected is something of an understatement.

It was only on the Thursday afternoon when the professional stock car racing driver got a surprise call from RFK Racing team co-owner Brad Keselowski to fill in at short notice, after regular driver Chris Buescher was diagnosed with COVID-19.

And so it came to pass, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series regular Smith stepping into the RFK Racing No. 17 Cup car, partnered by Acronis, on Friday at World Wide Technology Raceway for something of a dream debut.

“It’s obviously super cool,” Smith is quoted on before making his debut. “It’s more like, ‘Dude, what am I doing right now?’ Literally 10 years ago, I was collecting a Brad Keselowski diecast, and now he’s calling me to put me in his Cup car. … It’s just unreal.

“My phone was ringing, and it was Brad, and I answered, and he basically asked me if I wanted to make my Cup debut,” added Smith. “That’s something you literally dream of since you’re a little kid. The knees about buckled, and I was just so happy. … It’s just been insane from there on.

“It’s just been such a crazy 24 hours now. I started my day at about 5 a.m. and realized it wasn’t a dream and headed to sim, got about 30 minutes of sim in a Cup car. And then [we] did about half a mold inside of Brad’s mold, and just trying to do everything we can — obviously as last-minute as it gets.”

And despite the extreme short notice of the call-up, Smith certainly did not underperform, finishing a mightily impressive 17th position in his no.17 car out of the 36-strong field of drivers – that result bettering that of Keselowski himself.

For the Hendrick Motorsports Team, also partnered by Acronis, it was defending champion Kyle Larson who finished a place ahead of teammate Alex Bowman in 12th place, both drivers still very much in the running for the ultimate prize in 2022.

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