NASCAR: Chandler Smith drives to front in closing laps to win in Las Vegas
Nineteen year-old Chandler Smith took the lead with two laps remaining and held off 2021 championship contender Zane Smith and the winningest driver in NASCAR national-series history, his team owner Kyle Busch, to win the Victoria’s Voice 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
It was a deservedly dramatic ending for a hugely competitive race at the 1.5-mile Las Vegas track – marking the ninth consecutive truck series race won by a driver 23 years of age or younger. Smith’s .289-second win over Zane Smith was his first of the season and third of his career and good enough to propel him to the championship points lead by five points over Tanner Gray.
The move for the win came after a restart with three laps remaining. Smith, of Talking Rock, Georgia, got around his team owner Busch, then pulled alongside Zane Smith at the finish line with one lap to go and finally drove out front for the final of the 134 laps to take the win.
“When you guys tune into me halfway through the race, ‘how did he get up there?”’ Smith said motioning toward the sky. “It’s the good Lord man, he performs miracles all day. He’s given me this talent, this opportunity to drive this truck for Kyle Busch Motorsports and for [sponsor] Safelite.
“I’m just beyond thankful for this whole opportunity. All the glory goes to him, my guys, my wife, all the guys part of this deal. I’m just super thankful right now.”
There were five different leaders in the final furious 11 laps that included a caution for Christian Eckes, who was tagged from behind by Busch while leading the race with eight laps remaining. The final restart produced a wild – sometimes three-wide contest to the checkered.
Behind Smith, who led a race-best 32 laps, Busch, Stewart Friesen, Ryan Preece and Gray rounded out the Top five. Preece, making only his third Truck Series start, was leading when the final caution flag came out but was penalized five positions for not maintaining speed behind the pace car. Zane Smith originally finished second, but was disqualified following post-race inspection. Smith’s No. 38 truck was found to not conform to NASCAR rule book specifications per the following rules: 14.16.1 – 1-4 Lug Nuts.
Matt DiBenedetto, Matt Crafton, Bret Holmes, Austin Wayne Self and Ty Majeski rounded out the Top 10.
Defending series champion Ben Rhodes won both Stage 1 and Stage 2 and led nine laps on the night, but a collision with his ThorSport Racing teammate Majeski with 30 laps remaining badly damaged his No. 99 ThorSport Toyota, eliminating him from competition. Instead of contending for the win, the race favorite took his first DNF since the 2020 Daytona season-opener.
“I can’t speak to what happened with my teammate there, I’m just going to try to stay positive,’’ said Rhodes, who was credited with a 32nd-place finish. “Can’t imagine my teammate trying to wreck me.”
“Just a bummer,’’ he added.
Sentimental favorite, Todd Bodine, a two-time series champion who last raced in 2013, finished 22nd in the first of his six scheduled starts for 2022 in an effort to reach 800 NASCAR national series starts.
Bodine had an eventful night in the No. 62 Toyota, including two pit road speeding penalties, a penalty to his crew for being over the wall too soon and even surviving a pair of on-track incidents to finish on the lead lap.
With his win Smith takes a six-point lead over Zane Smith in the championship standings.
The Camping World Truck Series returns to action March 19 in the Fr8Auctions 200 (2:30 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
*Kaulig Racing driver A.J. Allmendinger won the pole position for Saturday’s Alsco Uniforms 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Las Vegas, his No. 16 Toyota just edging JR Motorsports’ Josh Berry. The two drivers were the 2021 race winners at the track – with Allmendinger picking up his first win at the 1.5-miler last March. Las Vegas natives Riley Herbst and Noah Gragson will start third and fourth with Kaulig driver Landon Cassill fifth best in qualifying.
“It was a little bit unexpected,’’ Allmendinger said, crediting his teammate Cassill with showing that good pace in the cars during an earlier qualifying run.
“Kind of shocked looking at the lap time how quick it was,’’ he added with a smile.
CHANDLER SMITH QUOTES
Finishing Position: 1st
How were you able to win this race tonight?
“All up there. When you guys tuned into me halfway through the race and asked how you got up there, the Good Lord. He performs miracles all day and he’s given me this talent and this opportunity to drive this truck for Kyle Busch Motorsports and for Safelite. I’m just beyond thankful for everything and all the glory goes to him. Thanks to my guys and my wife, everybody that’s a part of this deal and deals with me everyday.”
Do you feel you’re starting to make your mark on the series?
“I’m just another guy that’s trying to race cars for a living. I’ll do whateve the Good Lord lets me do.”
Why did you split your team owner on the final restart?
“Boss man did to me the restart before so I was like, ‘Alright Kyle, I see how it’s going to be, we’re not going to help each other.’ So I kept that in the back of my head. We were in contention there at the very end and I stuck it three-wide and was able to clear Kyle (Busch) and get around Zane (Smith). It was all being in the right places at the right times.”
How strong was your Toyota Tundra TRD PRO?
“I told Danny Stockman, my crew chief that if I ever got clean air, we were going to check out. We got clean air and started inching away more and more, but then the cautions kept coming and we were also kind of plate racing. There are so many aero games you can play and things you can do to suck up here. You can’t really drive away from people unless they’re really racing hard behind you and there wasn’t too much of that. I’m just happy to be here with Safelite in my Tundra TRD PRO.”
- (3) Chandler Smith, Toyota, 134.
- (2) Kyle Busch(i), Toyota, 134.
- (17) Stewart Friesen, Toyota, 134.
- (5) Ryan Preece(i), Ford, 134.
- (8) Tanner Gray, Ford, 134.
- (15) Matt Dibenedetto, Chevrolet, 134.
- (7) Matt Crafton, Toyota, 134.
- (32) Bret Holmes, Chevrolet, 134.
- (18) Austin Wayne Self, Chevrolet, 134.
- (10) Ty Majeski, Toyota, 134.
- (29) Dean Thompson #, Chevrolet, 134.
- (21) Tate Fogleman, Toyota, 134.
- (12) Carson Hocevar, Chevrolet, 134.
- (19) Chase Purdy, Toyota, 134.
- (27) Matt Mills(i), Chevrolet, 134.
- (14) Tyler Ankrum, Toyota, 134.
- (16) Kris Wright, Chevrolet, 134.
- (28) Timmy Hill, Toyota, 134.
- (26) Lawless Alan #, Chevrolet, 134.
- (36) Loris Hezemans, Toyota, 134.
- (23) Todd Bodine, Toyota, 134.
- (33) Matt Jaskol, Toyota, 134.
- (11) Grant Enfinger, Chevrolet, 134.
- (13) Derek Kraus, Chevrolet, 134.
- (1) John Hunter Nemechek, Toyota, 134.
- (34) Jordan Anderson, Chevrolet, Accident, 133.
- (35) Spencer Boyd, Chevrolet, Accident, 132.
- (9) Christian Eckes, Toyota, Accident, 126.
- (31) Thad Moffitt, Chevrolet, 114.
- (25) Kaz Grala, Chevrolet, Engine, 113.
- (4) Ben Rhodes, Toyota, Accident, 103.
- (24) Jack Wood #, Chevrolet, Accident, 71.
- (20) Hailie Deegan, Ford, Accident, 44.
- (22) Colby Howard, Chevrolet, Accident, 28.
- (30) Blaine Perkins #, Chevrolet, DVP, 21.
- (6) Zane Smith, Ford, 134.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 93.223 mph.
Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 9 Mins, 22 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.289 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 10 for 52 laps.
Lead Changes: 21 among 10 drivers.
Lap Leaders: J. Nemechek 1;K. Busch(i) 2-10;Z. Smith 11-24;C. Smith 25-27;B. Rhodes 28-32;T. Gray 33-36;C. Hocevar 37-45;K. Busch(i) 46-55;T. Gray 56-58;B. Rhodes 59-62;K. Busch(i) 63-71;J. Nemechek 72-91;T. Hill 92;J. Nemechek 93-94;C. Smith 95-101;C. Eckes 102;C. Smith 103-122;C. Eckes 123-125;R. Preece(i) 126-128;K. Busch(i) 129-131;Z. Smith 132;C. Smith 133-134.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Chandler Smith 4 times for 32 laps; Kyle Busch(i) 4 times for 31 laps; John Hunter Nemechek 3 times for 23 laps; Zane Smith 2 times for 15 laps; Carson Hocevar 1 time for 9 laps; Ben Rhodes 2 times for 9 laps; Tanner Gray 2 times for 7 laps; Christian Eckes 2 times for 4 laps; Ryan Preece(i) 1 time for 3 laps; Timmy Hill 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 99,18,15,24,42,88,51,4,66,17
Stage #2 Top Ten: 99,51,66,4,15,18,88,98,52,19