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 six-points over Zane Smith.
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, Zane Smith and Busch, Stewart Friesen and Ryan Preece 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.
Tanner Gray, Matt DiBenedetto, Matt Crafton, Bret Holmes and Austin Wayne Self rounded out the Top 10.
“Regardless, I had a lot of fun right there,’’ Zane Smith said, noting the damage on his truck from an early-race incident.
“That was some hard, good racing. I can’t believe I’m up here with all that damage. Just wait until this thing is clean,’’ he said smiling.
“So close to back-to-back but a lot more to go get this year.’’
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 Ty 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.
— NASCAR Wire Service —