NASCAR: Zane Smith could miss the Daytona 500

Zane Smith, Front Row Motorsports, Daytona 500, NASCAR (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)
Zane Smith, Front Row Motorsports, Daytona 500, NASCAR (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images) /

Front Row Motorsports have entered a third car for Zane Smith for the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season-opening Daytona 500, but he isn’t locked into the race.

Last summer, Front Row Motorsports announced that Zane Smith, who went on to win the 2022 NASCAR Truck Series championship for the team, would compete in select races for the organization throughout the 2023 Cup Series season, beginning with the season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.

It has since been revealed that Smith is set to share the chartered No. 38 Ford with Todd Gilliland, who was once set to be a full-time driver for the second straight year, throughout the season.

However, the Bob Jenkins-owned team plan to enter three cars for the 200-lap race around the four-turn, 2.5-mile (4.023-kilometer) high-banked Daytona Beach, Florida oval.

Zane Smith’s Daytona 500 entry is the non-chartered No. 36 Ford, meaning he isn’t locked into the NASCAR Cup Series season opener.

The 36 chartered entries, including Gilliland’s No. 38 Ford, are all locked into the 65th annual running of the Great American Race, but the non-chartered entries, of which there are six, are not, as the field is capped at 40 cars.

Only four non-chartered cars will successfully qualify for the race, meaning that Smith’s Daytona 500 debut might not come in 2023.

In addition to his No. 36 Ford, the non-chartered cars currently on the Daytona 500 entry list are Chandler Smith’s No. 13 Kaulig Chevrolet, Conor Daly’s No. 50 The Money Team Racing Chevrolet, Austin Hill’s No. 62 Beard Motorsports Chevrolet, Travis Pastrana’s No. 67 23XI Racing Toyota, and Jimmie Johnson’s No. 84 Legacy Motor Club Chevrolet.

Two non-chartered entries are set to qualify for the race via their speed in the single-car qualifying session, which is set to be broadcast live on Fox Sports 1 beginning at 8:15 p.m. ET on Wednesday, February 15.

The other two are set to qualify via their results in the Bluegreen Vacations Duels, which are set to be broadcast live on Fox Sports 1 beginning at 7:00 p.m. ET on Thursday, February 16. The highest finisher in each Duel, among the non-chartered cars, locks in.

If a driver technically locks in both on Wednesday and Thursday, the spot he earned in the single-car qualifying session goes to the next fastest driver from that session, among the non-chartered cars.

Smith has one race of Cup Series experience to his name, having replacing Chris Buescher behind the wheel of the No. 17 Ford at RFK Racing at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway when Buescher was sidelined due to COVID-19 protocols.

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Fox is set to broadcast the Daytona 500 live beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, February 19. Begin a free trial of FuboTV now and don’t miss any of the action!