Mamba Smith’s unique journey of passion, companionship reaches IRP for ARCA Menards Series debut

Mamba Smith’s unique journey of passion, companionship reaches IRP for ARCA Menards Series debut

Dylan “Mamba” Smith’s unofficial job title as a NASCAR employee is Chief Hype Officer. To him, the designation means his duty is making sure those around him are having a good time.

This is a simple task for somebody who so naturally radiates fun.

Smith’s engaging personality is part of the reason he seems to befriend everybody he meets in the motorsports industry. And those relationships are part of the reason the 30-year-old is set to make his ARCA Menards Series debut in the Reese’s 200 at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park on July 29.

RELATED: What to know about the Reese’s 200 at IRP

Smith, a native of Haiti who grew up in Randolph, Vermont, under his adopted parents, will race at the 0.686-mile asphalt oval in Tyler Young’s Chevrolet with support from NASCAR Xfinity Series driver AJ Allmendinger. Smith considers both close friends.

This is not the first time Mamba’s peers have supported his driving efforts. A few years ago, for example, Smith raced a late model in the Snowflake 100 at Florida’s Five Flags Speedway thanks in part to sponsorship from his buddies Bubba Wallace and Ryan Blaney.

At this point, Smith does not consider himself a racer even though he likes to compete in live action at least once a year. In fact, while he wants to perform well at IRP, winning is not necessarily the goal. He’s more focused on being able to enjoy some cold, post-race beverages alongside his friends with, he hopes, all four fenders still on the car.

“I’m not trying to go Cup racing; that’s not what I expect to come from this,” Smith said with his infectious smile. “I want to enjoy the experience. I’m definitely looking forward to cracking open some beers with the guys after the race and just sitting on pit road for a minute and enjoying that.”

This is a point of bliss Smith has reached in his life and career. And to him, the journey is borderline inexplicable.

Bubba Wallace, Ryan Blaney and Mamba Smith

Smith’s passion for motorsports arrived early, when at age 4 his dad starting bringing him to Thunder Road, a quarter-mile paved oval about a 30-minute drive from their Vermont home.

“The cars, the colors, the racing — that atmosphere was awesome,” Smith said. “It was so much fun. And I was like, ‘I want to do that.’”

Smith convinced his parents to get him into go-kart racing, and his dad, a carpenter, taught himself how to be his son’s mechanic by reading chassis books.

The success arrived immediately.

Smith estimates he and his dad won somewhere between 90 and 100 go-kart races together. And those early victories were key to the development of his fervor for racing.

“That’s probably why we stuck with it,” Smith said. “When you win, you’re like, ‘This is a fun feeling.’ We did that a lot early on.”

Mamba Smith
Kyle Larson and Mamba Smith

Smith won an Allison Legacy North championship before he moved to racing late models at Thunder Road at age 16, which was young for that division in Vermont. He eventually received a call to attend NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity combines in North Carolina.

Smith performed well in his first combine but was not offered a spot in that year’s development class. He was offered a job, though, with Rev Racing. He turned it down still in pursuit of his driving career.

The next year, Smith again was denied a spot on the team, but the job offer remained. This time he took it, and he became a mechanic for Rev Racing despite, he says, barely knowing how to read a tape measure.

Smith at Rev Racing developed relationships with those around him. He also developed his notoriety in the motorsports world thanks to his iRacing participation. The team had a rig at the shop, where Smith would compete online from the time he was done working each day to the early hours of the morning.

Rev Racing also owned a Legend Car, which Smith wheeled in the 2012 Summer Shootout at Charlotte Motor Speedway. That same year, Smith worked as an interior mechanic for then-Rev Racing driver Kyle Larson, who won the championship in what is now the ARCA Menards Series East.

Smith the next year accepted a job at Stewart-Haas Racing, which saw driver Kevin Harvick win the 2014 NASCAR Cup Series championship.

“So now I have a championship with Kyle Larson and a championship with Kevin Harvick,” Smith joked. “And then they found out that I race.”

RACING REFERENCE: Mamba Smith’s statistics to date

Smith considers the summer of 2014 among his favorite periods of life thus far. Haas Automation sponsored his late model efforts, and he and friend Danny Johnson as a two-man team competed in races throughout North and South Carolina. He at one point found himself ranked in the top 40 of what is now the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series.

The next year, he finally was selected as a NASCAR Drive for Diversity Program class member, so he spent 2015 running for Rev Racing. He then left both that and his duties at Stewart-Haas to join MDM Motorsports, a race team that operated from 2017-18. It was at MDM where Smith switched from the mechanical side of racing to the communications department. He was the public relations assistant for Wallace when the now-Cup Series driver won a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Michigan International Speedway.

When the team shut down after the 2018 season, Smith was left on the outside of racing. He was out of the sport for about three years before NASCAR came calling.

Mamba Smith

Smith’s schedule as NASCAR’s Chief Hype Officer is fluid. He appears as an analyst Mondays on Backseat Drivers, a NASCAR YouTube show that brings together different personalities from the industry to discuss and debate topics surrounding the sport. Every other week, he hosts Mark, Mamba and The Mayor, a podcast featuring Mark Martin and Jeff Burton.

Beyond that, he can be found roaming NASCAR headquarters or race tracks and, per his job title, uplifting the spirits of those around him.

He was just doing that at a local restaurant when the dream of his maiden ARCA start began to transform into reality. Smith at that establishment explained to Allmendinger his desire. Having been teased with an ARCA race in 2015 but ultimately not getting the chance to run, Smith was still hungry for the opportunity.

“Iran at Myrtle Beach. I ran the Snowflake 100,” Smith said. “I’m like, ‘Man I’ve done these races, and they’re fun and great, but if it’s costing me this much, if I can find a little more, I can run an ARCA race.””

Allmendinger asked his friend how much money was needed, and soon after, Smith was signing an agreement on a paper napkin that stipulated Allmendinger would put forth $8,000.

“I was like, ‘OK, I guess we’re going to try to do this thing now.’” Smith said with a laugh.

Mamba Smith and AJ Allmendinger
Mamba Smith and AJ Allmendinger

Smith’s friendship with Young, who owns both a Truck Series operation and an ARCA Menards Series team, made finding a ride relatively simple. Smith and Young for years had spoke of working together this way. Once Smith was able to secure funding from Allmendinger, friend Austin Craven from Team Dillon Management, Maestro’s Classic and Elliott’s Custom Trailers and Carts, everything was in place for an entry. Smith’s car at IRP will also feature his Mark, Mamba and The Mayor podcast.

“Tyler Young has been a good friend of mine for a really long time, and for him to let me drive his race because means a lot,” Smith said. “Tyler is one of the real dudes around. He went from a driver stepping back to being a really young owner. He’s built this awesome team.”

Smith is making his ARCA debut because he wants to compete. But ultimately, the relationships he maintains with people like Young are what make the effort worthwhile.

He admits working with friends in many spaces can be challenging, but not here. This is just fun. In that regard, Smith is simply doing his job.

“The friendship and the brotherhood and the bond between myself and some if the drivers — a lot of us grew up together,” Smith said. “Some of them have made it to a point. Some of them have supported me in the past, and they know I would do the same for them. That’s a respect thing.

“They know I love this. I’m not doing it just for kicks. It’s my passion, too.”

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