R.D. Smith was incredibly confident entering Sunday’s ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville Speedway, based on the strength of a track championship at Ace Speedway.

“Ace kinda reopened, and it’s five or ten minutes from our house, so we started running there, and we were able to capitalize,” said R.D. Smith following Sunday’s race in Ridgeway, Virginia. “I think we won six of the last seven, and we were able to win the championship. We really had a lot of momentum coming here. I thought our team was really performing well coming in here.”

That momentum showed during his time in Martinsville, as the Burlington, North Carolina native finished third in the 200-lap feature despite starting shotgun on the field.

Smith qualified sixth in Saturday’s qualifying session and finished second in the first heat race of the afternoon to earn the sixth spot on the grid. However, Smith was relegated to the rear of the field before the start of the feature race after Smith asked a crew member to inspect his car due to a mechanical concern.

“Well, I made a call,” Smith said about the penalty. “I felt like we had something broken when we rolled off the backstretch. Something didn’t feel right in the left-front. I thought it was a safety issue, so I called my guy to come over and look at the car. He didn’t touch anything, but it was unapproved, so it sent us to the back. ”

Smith began a furious charge through the 42-car field, working his way up to seventh place over the first 150 laps of the race. To Smith’s benefit, the blind draw at the lap 150 intermission inverted eight cars, placing him on the outside of the front row for the final 50 laps.

“We knew we had a good car, and just tried to pick them off one by one,” Smith said. “Just tried to settle in and start moving our way forward. We were able to move back to seventh before the 150 break.”

“I had to work a little harder,” Smith added. “I would have preferred to be up there in the top five. You still gotta run hard. But not to have to take so many chances, I had to go three wide a couple of times, inside, outside, and do a little bit of everything. It was, all in all, it made  it a little bit more challenging, but after the invert we were in a really good position.”

Smith maintained a spot near the top of the order throughout the final 50 laps, restarting second on a lap 198 restart which proved to be the last one of the race. However, Timothy Peters’ charge from third place removed Smith from a shot at the win.

“I thought we were in a great position with that last caution, being on the outside of Tommy, I really thought we had a shot at it going into turn one,” said Smith about the final restart. “I had really the run I was looking for. I beat him back to the throttle and I had a great, great angle off of the corner. But I came off the corner, and I believe Timothy went three wide on us and I felt really comfortable going into turn three on the outside of Tommy. But when Timothy went under him, that put me to the third groove, into no-man’s land.”

Nonetheless, the third-place finish, along with his second track championship at Ace and several good runs on the Championship Auto Racing Series [CARS] Late Model Stock Tour, make this the best season of Smith’s career.

“All in all, our season’s been incredible,” Smith said about his performance in 2015. “It’s been probably our strongest year to date. We’ve had another championship, but I felt like this year we’ve stepped our game up to that next echelon. I feel there’s five or six guys that are really setting themselves apart. I think we are putting ourselves in that group. Week in and week out, we are working our way there. We’ve got a great race team with David Gilliland Racing. Everything is working real well for us.”