Chandler Smith Drives To Front In Closing Laps To Win At Las Vegas Motor Speedwayby Press Release March 6, 2022 0 comments
By Holly Cain
NASCAR Wire Service
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.
Photo Credit: Meg Oliphant/Getty Images