NASCAR Cup Series team owner Bryan Smith never expects his car to take the checkered flag, but every race is a victory.
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Smith runs TriStar Motorsports, one of the smallest teams on the circuit. It’s a fully-independent, family-run outfit that was started nearly thirty years ago by his father, Mark, who passed away last year after a battle with cancer.
Bryan, 39, took the reins in the hopes of keeping his father’s dream alive, along with his mother and sister, who oversee the office and schedule travel. The Smiths also run PME Engines in Mooresville, N.C., which provides motors to other small NASCAR teams, short trackers and drag racers.
With a budget maybe a tenth of the size of the top teams, Smith knows he is “bringing a knife to a gunfight” each weekend, but winning isn’t what it’s all about.
“There’s things that we can offer that the big teams can’t. There’s some stuff that they offer that we can’t. I think we have a fit, and I think we have a place,” Smith says.
One of those things is the family feel that permeates the TriStar garage. When TriStar driver Cole Whitt said he wanted to take it easy this year because his wife and he were having a baby, Smith hired young gun Corey LaJoie to take on the bulk of the schedule, and let the two figure out who’d race where.
Third-generation driver LaJoie says he feels right at home.
“This team’s really unique with Bryan owning the race team, but he’s also there putting decals on in the shop and here at the racetrack,” LaJoie says.
“So it’s really cool, because I was on a really family oriented racing team when I was coming up. You usually don’t see that nowadays.”
It’s a sentiment that permeates throughout the TriStar garage. Brian and several of his crewmembers have spent time working for larger, better-funded teams, but enjoy the different challenge they face slightly out of the high-pressure spotlight.
They know who their competition is near the back of the field, and have their own barometer for success. Bryan says he wouldn’t mind stepping up a notch or two if he can find the right sponsors to work with, but isn’t interested in ever getting too big and losing what makes his team special.
Fox News’ Carley Shimkus met up with TriStar at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to find out exactly what that is.