Jack Smith vs. ASA Late Models Saga Continues at Nashville by Matt Kentfield
Smith Suspended From ASA, Runs CRA After Drastic Changes
The ASA Late Model Challenge Series had an ill-fated effort to have their events televised during the 2006 season on networks available in few households. The coverage featured green-to-checkered highlights of all of their events, but due to the cost of production and the lack of a television audience, the series’ TV deal is gone in 2007.
But perhaps the televised ASA events were packaged all wrong. If they made it more of a soap opera than an on-track coverage, maybe we’d all still be tuning in every week.
Jack Smith and his controversial body. (51 Photos)
And undoubtedly, the two stars of the show would be veteran racer Jack Smith and owner of the ASA Late Model Series, Ron Varney. The two have had their run-ins in the past, many of which have come over Smith’s pushing, or even exceeding, the rules set forth by ASA officials. Smith has been suspended, fined and even flat-out kicked out ASA in the past, and each time Varney has let him back into the series after meeting special criteria.
But the latest episode in the Smith & Varney Show may have been the last straw for Smith in ASA racing. After the most recent ASALM Challenge event at Music City Motorplex in Nashville, TN, Smith was once again suspended indefinitely, according to Varney, from ASA competition.
At Nashville, Smith was to make his second start of the year in the Challenge Series after finishing 14th in the season-opening event in San Antonio, TX last month. The fact that Smith was even allowed into the pit area at San Antonio was surprising to some, due to Smith’s “indefinite suspension” assessed by Varney at the conclusion of the 2006 season.
The two parties settled at least some of their differences in the off-season and Smith was allowed to compete at San Antonio, but not after a lengthy technical inspection and heavy critiquing of Smith’s body, which was the foundation for many of the driver’s issues with the series in the past.
Smith was deemed legal, but certain parts of his car, including the nose and side windows, were confiscated by ASA officials post-race, but no penalties were assessed.
Then everything came to a head at Nashville. Smith never even made it to race-day tech. He voluntarily went through the template process during practice on Friday, a day when the tech lines were open, but not mandatory.
On Saturday morning, before the first official practice of race day, word came down from the ASA brass that Smith would not be allowed to compete, setting off what has turned into a rekindling of the Smith/Varney saga.
Speed51.com contacted Ron Varney, and the official ruling on the suspension is that “Greg Urbine can be reinstated only if he hangs a new body on the racecar and it fits all of the body rules and templates. Jack Smith is still suspended indefinitely from competing in ASA.”
In layman’s terms, the #28 may be back in ASA competition when the season continues at Toledo Speedway in two weeks with a new body on it, but Jack Smith won’t be there driving it or any other racecar from here on in.
But what has Smith up in arms over the whole situation is, from his accounts of the whole saga at Nashville last weekend, is that he never had an opportunity to fix the problems that the ASA officials found with the body of his #28 car.
“Ron Varney would not talk to us. Greg said to Russ, ‘What do I need to do?’ Russ just said that he gave a list to Ron. Ron just said, ‘don’t even worry about it. There’s no way he’s going to fix this whole list of things. They’re done for the day.’
“Ron never gave us an option. ASA never gave me the opportunity to fix my car. As of Friday when I went through tech, I went through tech and I didn’t need to go through tech. We went through just to be sure, just to not hear any hassle. We ended up going through tech and we passed all the templates.
After Smith was not allowed to run in the ASA race, work began to get his car to meet CRA rules.
“The tech guy comes over with the guy who runs the Southern tech and both of them said to Ron that they checked templates and they fit perfect,” Smith said. “Ron said ‘Okay.’”
“Then, come Saturday morning, it’s nine o’clock and gates open. We just pulled the door down and I got the golf cart out and my boys and I are going to go for a ride, when the tech guy Russ (Chapman) comes up and says, ‘Where’s Greg (Urbine, Smith’s crew chief) at?’ I said he’s probably in the toter home. He went off into the toter home. Then Greg came out and said, ‘Jack, I’ve got bad news. ASA just kicked us out.’ I said, ‘Yeah, okay” and he said “No, I’m serious. ASA kicked us out.’ I said, ‘For what?’ He said, ‘They admit, the car fit the template, but it still looks totally different than everyone else’s.’
“They kicked us out.”
Among the things that Smith had to apologize for in order to be reinstated to ASA for this season was an opology for this gesture towards Eddie Hoffman at Nashville last year. (51/Dan Butler photo)
“We were out on the track and Greg said to come in because we were going to change something. Greg said he was listening to the scanner and he was listening to ASA and Ron was going, ‘That goddamn car, it looks right, but there’s something wrong with it. It doesn’t look right, the quarter panels are jacked up and blah blah blah.”
Varney, who has seemingly been in a constant tug-of-war with Smith over the last few seasons in ASA, stuck to his guns set forth by his previous suspension.
“We found several instances wrong with his car, with his bodywork and everything else,” said Varney. “He was on a zero-tolerance policy with this series. He knew it and he broke it. So we decided to ask him to leave.
“Other than that I can’t comment because he’s threatening to sue us. He did not follow the directions that we had set forth for his reinstatement."
According to Varney, Smith was under a “zero-tolerance” policy in order to be reinstated before the 2007 season. But Smith saw his reinstatement under different terms.
He and I talked up in the tower, and he said that he took that as a direct insult. He said, ‘Why would he do all that work to his car before he went to your tech line and not do it for mine?’
“I totally understand how Ron feels in that situation. I’d feel the same if it happened to me too. And it’s not about ASA and it’s not about CRA. There are no problems there between the two of us, but I’d feel the same way as Ron if the roles were reversed.”
Smith was able to finally get through tech, after having to change item after item on his car to compete in Sunday’s CRA race, where he wound up scoring a top-10 finish. Now that his ASA career, at least for now, is over once again, Smith has plenty of question marks left on his plate for his racing career.
“I have two kids that mean more than anything in the whole world to me,” said Smith. “It was the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever had to go through to explain to my kids what happened. It kicks my butt to know that my kids were there and had to see me get kicked out of ASA.
“I’m telling you, I swore on my kids’ lives, that he never once said anything other than load up and go home – no fixing it, you are done. That’s exactly what was said to us.”
Speed51.com will stay on top of the story as it develops.
Smith (left) discusses his ability for running the CRA race with CRA's R.J. Scott (right)
They missed all of practice, but the car eventually conformed to CRA rules, including the body rules. Both CRA and ASA fly under the ABC Body configuration, which was meant to level the playing field by having every competitor run, at least on paper, the same body regardless of manufacturer. It took over two hours’ worth of work to make the car acceptable for CRA, and Smith qualified his crate-motor car deep in the field of high-horsepower Super Late Models.
Which raises the question, if Smith was willing to spend hours fixing his car to conform to CRA rules, why not do the same to make the ASA race?
“We’ve never, ever gotten any explanation on what was wrong,” said Smith. “Never got a chance to fix it because we were never told what to fix.
“CRA’s tech inspection is by far way better than ASA’s. They actually know what’s
“I told him I had to treat him the same as everyone else,” said R.J. Scott, Managing Partner of the CRA Super Series. “He had to go through all the same processes and he was going to be held to all the same standards. I also told him before his car even went through tech, before I knew he was even kicked out of ASA, the solution to Jack’s problem was not to come race with us, but to fix the problems with his racecar. I told him up front that his car had to be right.
“The car that they presented to ASA for tech was not the same car they presented to us. It was the same car, but it was not in the same configuration. He worked his butt off, he missed every bit of practice, because he was trying to get through tech. He had a lot of work to do before he could even bring it to us.”
Like Varney, Scott was left scratching his head as to why Smith was so willing to make his car legal for CRA and not for ASA.
“Why didn’t he do that to his car before he went to ASA tech? Ron made a good point.
“The deal was we never agreed to any of those rules,” said Smith. “Our ‘zero-tolerance’ thing was a sheet that I was supposed to sign. The first thing it says is I must go public and tell Eddie Hoffman I am apologizing for what I said to him and what happened at Nashville back in November (the two made contact and Smith threw a water bottle at Hoffman’s car on the track). I would not apologize because I didn’t mean to call him some of the things I did, but I still blatantly feel like Eddie knew what he did to me when he crashed me. I don’t want to do that.
“I said I did not agree with the zero tolerance because that gives Ron Varney anything and anyway, if I even burped wrong, it would give him an opportunity to kick me out of the series.”
In a move that many considered a middle-finger to ASA, Smith and his #28 team, immediately after being tossed out of the ASA event at Nashville on Saturday began changing their car to conform to CRA Super Series rules to hopefully run that series’ 150-lap feature on Sunday. The car laid dead-center in the infield as the team tinkered on their car in order to pass CRA tech.
going on. They said to fix the C-pillar. The C-pillar was the only one they had a problem with and they didn’t like how the interior panels were built on the right side. They were going to give me a 25-pound penalty for that because I couldn’t change it at the track.
“ASA has no rule on the interior of the thing, so that’s why I had it that way. So if I go back and run a CRA race, I’ll change the panel, but here there was nothing we could do so they gave me 25-pounds, but we need to have the C-pillar fixed.”
But Smith’s jumping ship to the CRA side at Nashville was not a way to pit ASA versus CRA. Both series have their own markets in Late Model racing, and neither side saw it as CRA trying to make a martyr out of Smith or ASA making a bad guy out of Smith.
“After we told him he wasn’t going to be racing with us, they worked on their car for two and a half hours and tried to get it to meet CRA templates and rules,” said Varney. “If he was going to do it for them, why couldn’t he do it for us? This is an ongoing thing with him over the course of a couple of years and he keeps doing it over and over, but he’ll try to make it right for CRA. If they choose to let him run, then that’s their call.”
Smith (left) and Varney (right) during happier times, like when Smith won Adirondack last year.