Chandler Smith Captures First NASCAR Xfinity Series Win At Richmond Racewayby Hunter Thomas April 1, 2023 1 comment
RICHMOND, Va. – Chandler Smith outran John Hunter Nemechek on Saturday at Richmond Raceway to capture his first-ever win in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
It only took Smith 10 starts in the series to visit Victory Lane, and on Saturday in the ToyotaCare 250, he had to survive a late-race restart before taking the checkered flag. With six laps to go, Smith and Nemechek started alongside of each other on the front row. Smith nearly cleared Nemechek early after the restart, but the two drivers battled side-by-side. Smith eventually settled in and drove away to win.
It feels great,” said Smith, driver of the Kaulig Racing No. 16 Quick Tie Products, Inc. Chevrolet. “This goes to testimony us in Vegas. Dominated that race, didn’t win. Said it was all in God’s timing; He’s creating something way bigger and better than I know to do with. Here we are at Richmond, my favorite racetrack, and we’re sitting in Victory Lane. All glory goes to God!”
Smith, who found success in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series over the past two years, nearly won his first NASCAR Xfinity Series race earlier this year at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but he had to settle for third-place. This weekend, Smith once again, led the most laps, along with winning Stage 1. In Stage 2, Smith fell back to finish in fourth; however, he bounced back to lead the final 12 laps of the race.
Nemechek finished second, earning his third top-two finish of the season; however, he wasn’t too thrilled about the performance because he has come so close to winning at the track in recent years. In the final laps, Nemechek could hang with Smith on the early laps following the last restart of the race, but his car just didn’t have the short run speed to keep pace.
“Disappointed to run runner-up again,” Nemechek said. “That is the last three races here I’ve ran second or third, frustrating. We will go back to work. We just have to figure out to execute better. The 16 (Chandler Smith) had the best car on the short run – it was going to be hard to hold him off, even early on, he would fire off and then drop back. Just one of those days. It was a good points day for us. I think we moved up a couple spots. Disappointed, but we will take it and move on to the next one.”
Josh Berry finished third, earning his best finish of the season. He led 63 laps throughout the race, won Stage 2 and was in the mix on the last restart as well.
Kaz Grala finished an impressive fourth, tying his best performance in his 51 series starts. In fact, Saturday’s effort marked Grala’s best finish on an oval with the exception of Daytona in during his series debut back in 2018.
“It was our best race of the year – but not for a lack of effort,” Grala said. “We’ve been bringing really, really fast Toyota GR Supras. Today was no exception. Everything fell our way – we had a solid day, through and through. We were a top-10 car easily on the short run, but we might have just been the best car out here in the long run. When the caution came out late, I was almost disappointed – but it turned out okay. We will take a fourth-place. I’m really, really proud of everyone at Sam Hunt Racing, Toyota, our partners, Reudebusch, Island Coastal Lager, Fire Department Coffee. We can’t do it without those guys.”
Cole Custer, Sheldon Creed, Ryan Sieg, Parker Kligerman, Austin Hill and Derek Kraus rounded out the top-10.
Justin Allgaier who finished 13th, outperformed Daniel Hemric, Sammy Smith and Sam Mayer to win the Dash 4 Cash $100,000 bonus. Joining Allgaier in the next Dash 4 Cash race at Martinsville Speedway will be Smith, Nemechek and Berry.
“It’s weird finishing 13th and still be standing here holding this check,” Allgaier said. “You know, the other guys had a rough day, but they put us in next week again as well for the Dash 4 Cash, so huge thanks to Xfinity for all that they do for the sport. We weren’t as fast as Xfinity 10G today, but definitely hats off to Chandler. That team, they’ve done a great job all year, so it’s cool to see him get his first win.”
Throughout the race, there were six cautions for 43 laps.
On Lap 232, Brandon Jones and Riley Herbst got together in Turn 1 to bring out the first caution for an accident. Custer also received damage for the accident as well.
With 11 laps to go, Brett Moffitt went around in Turn 3, and amazingly, no one hit him, but other drivers did spin in the process.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series will visit Martinsville Speedway for the Call811.com Before You Dig. 250 on Saturday, Oct. 28. Live coverage of the race will broadcast on FS1 and MRN.
Photo Credit: Mitchell White/TheFourthTurn.com
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