Playoff Spot Dashed Late for Sammy Smith in Martinsville

By: Zach Catanzareti, Staff Writer

Martinsville Speedway stood and shook for a moment following Saturday’s derby under the lights for the NASCAR Xfinity Series.

For Sammy Smith, the final overtime restart spelled opportunity for the driver who led race-high 147 laps from pole. With Richard Childress Racing teammate out front, his biggest threat actually came in the form of his own teammate at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Entering Turn 1 for the two-lap dash, John Hunter Nemechek threw an aggressive block on Smith, which seemed to stall the No. 18’s momentum and kept him from attacking the RCR lead duo for the win. A win that would have clinched his first berth into next week’s championship in Phoenix.

“They were telling me that [Nemechek] wasn’t going to make any enemies,” Smith said. “I asked him if he was going to choose the top, and he said he wasn’t going to do that. I had a good run on him and he went to block me down to the bottom.

“He didn’t want to make any enemies, but I’m really frustrated right now. He definitely made one. I’m not going to let that one go, and we will see how things go.”

Following the serious words, Smith stepped back to confirm no payback plans for next week at Phoenix, a race Nemechek will run for his first title.

““I won’t carry it over. I wish he would have raced me with more respect,” he said. “Knowing that if he’s not going to do anything, I wasn’t planning on wrecking him like the [Nos.] 2 [Sheldon Creed] and 21 [Austin Hill] did.”

Despite the emotions, Saturday was a standout night for Smith, who scored only his third top-five finish since July after claiming career pole No. 1.

Still, in a must-win situation, Martinsville was a heartbreaker.

“Very frustrating, because I think we did everything right,” he said. “It’s just kind of typical for this race for what it brings, and we just have to move on to next week.”

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