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Moses Smith’s track record at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma is pretty impressive. He was all but a lock to finish in the top five when he raced there in the Star Mazda Series. He raced in the Toyota Atlantic Series and Indy Lights on the 1.99-mile road course in Northern California with a relative amount of success.
Stock cars are a different story.
Smith will be making his fourth career NASCAR K&N Pro Series West start at Infineon Raceway in the Thunder Valley Casino Resort 200 on Saturday. When asked about his most memorable moment at Infineon Raceway, Smith said, “Any time I won there.”
“A win’s always good. It means typically you’re in a car that’s fun to drive,” said Smith, driver of the No. 16 Toyota for Bill McAnally Racing. “We used to run with the Indy cars or American Le Mans Series. It’s fun to show off in front of the big guys.”
Smith spent nine years of his career racing open-wheel cars before making the switch to stock cars. He won the Star Mazda West Coast championship in 2002 and was the Star Mazda West Coast rookie of the year in 2001.
He started driving for Bill McAnally Racing in 2006 and has made three starts in the West Series at Infineon Raceway.
Moses Smith is in his fourth full season in the the No. 16 HASA Pools Toyota for Bill McAnally Racing. Getty Images
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Scott Speed and Nationwide Series driver Michael McDowell took the open-wheel route to stock cars. Smith raced against and beat both in the Star Mazda and Formula Mazda series. He said he would like the chance to race against them again in NASCAR at Infineon Raceway.
But winning a stock car race at Infineon Raceway has been challenging for Smith. He was 29th in last year’s West Series race in Sonoma after he was collected in a three-car crash on lap 55. His best finish at Infineon Raceway in the West Series has been 28th place. He’s had good cars for Sonoma, even led the race in his rookie season in 2006, but the same can’t be said for his luck.
Smith said he is coming off his best race of the season. He was fourth at Douglas County Speedway in Roseburg, Ore., two weeks ago. It was his first top-five finish of the season and his best finish since coming in eighth place in the West Series season opener at All American Speedway in Roseville.
“It definitely was our best race of the year,” Smith said. “We’ve had some tough luck, getting caught up on other people’s wrecks.”
Smith made a last-lap pass on his Bill McAnally Racing teammate Paulie Harraka at Douglas County Speedway to finish fourth. It was a clean pass, but he was worried how Harraka was going to react to it.
“We were just off the trailer fast and ready to go,” Smith said. “Toward the end there – it’s always tough when you’re racing a teammate. I pushed him along. All in all, it was a good run. We finished fourth. It was nice to finish up there and get our team back on track.”
Smith said he is hoping some of the momentum he built in Oregon will carry over to the race in Sonoma. The West Series race accompanies the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Infineon Raceway. The West Series race attracts some road-course specialists as well as some Cup drivers who are looking for some extra seat time.
Last year’s West Series race at Sonoma included Sprint Cup Series drivers Joey Logano and David Gilliland. Road-course veterans Boris Said and Patrick Long were also in the race.
Smith said because the West Series race attracts such a talented and diverse group of drivers, it will be tough to win. Gilliland and Said are entered in this year’s race. Because of his success in open-wheel cars at the track, Smith said a top-five finish is possible.
“My strength is road courses,” Smith said. “There still a blast to drive. I’m hoping my experience on road courses will play in my favor.”
Smith will get his chances to show off his road-racing skills in the West Series. Infineon Raceway is one of three road courses on the West Series schedule. He likes his chances of winning either the race at Portland International Raceway or Miller Motorsports Park in Utah.
The car his team is bringing to Infineon Raceway is an older one. It is a car Jim Inglebright tried to qualify for a Cup race at Sonoma in 2001. Smith said there will be other West Series teams with newer cars and more current equipment. But he also said his equipment might be a little better than the newer cars.
“My goal for Sonoma is to finish in the top five,” Smith said. “The other road courses, we have a better shot at going for the win. I’d like to finish in the top three in points. That’s something we’re digging at.”
Follow Tim Haddock on Twitter @thaddock and at www.haddockinthepaddock.com