By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
Chandler Smith maintained the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series points lead despite a mid-race spin at Circuit of the Americas (COTA).
Although Stage 1 of the XPEL 225 went caution-free, it was not without incident. Smith’s No. 18 Safelite Auto Glass Toyota Tundra TRD Pro had a loose wheel following pit stops at the end of the Stage. That forced the Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) driver to climb back up through the field.
Multiple cautions throughout Stage 2 and the final Stage brought Smith up to the front of the field. He found himself battling with teammate John Hunter Nemechek, team owner Kyle Busch, as well as Alex Bowman, Ben Rhodes, Stewart Friesen, Parker Kligerman, and Zane Smith. The six-way battle for the lead came to a head in the second, and final, overtime of the race.
Bowman took Friesen and race leader Busch three wide. The trio made contact, letting Zane Smith slip through. Chandler Smith meanwhile jockeyed with Kligerman and Nemechek for position on the 20-Turn, 3.41-mile road course. When Kligerman ran out of fuel, Smith was left to battle with both Busch and Rhodes. When the checkered flag waved, the second-year driver found himself in fifth.
“Track position and then at the very end – we probably would have ran second if everything had went good,” admitted Smith. “We just had a loose wheel and had to come in and get tires, and we still ended up salvaging a top-five at the very end with the green-white-checkered. Happy with my whole Safelite, ChargeMe Toyota KBM (Kyle Busch Motorsports) group and on forward.”
Smith qualified 12th and after his loose wheel he rebounded to finish fifth. The additional six points meant that he only lost 12 to competitor, and fellow Toyota Racing driver, Ben Rhodes. Smith is locked into the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series playoffs via his win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The fifth-place finish was the third top-five for Smith this season. It’s the 17th top-five in his Truck Series career.
Although Smith finished fifth, he’ll likely have extra work at the KBM shop this week. A friendly wager between Busch and the Talking Rock, GA native as to which Safelite Auto Glass truck would finish better leaves the 19-year-old with windshield washing duties.
— Kyle Busch Motorsports (@KBMteam) March 22, 2022
Featured Photo Credit: Photo by Rachel Schuoler / Kickin’ the Tires.