By Justin Schuoler, Staff Writer
LAS VEGAS – Chandler Smith was first out of Turn 4 coming to the white flag in the Alsco Uniforms 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
One and a half miles later, he fell to third after Austin Hill took the win away for his second of the 2023 NASCAR Xfinity Series season.
“We just led 115 laps or so and lost it with two to go,” said Smith after the race. “Really happy with everybody at Kaulig Racing, Chris Rice, Matt Kaulig, everybody on our Quick Tie Chevrolet. Everyone put in a really good effort, so I can’t be too disappointed.”
Hill and Justin Allgaier got by Smith by Turn 1, leaving him to fend for himself and see only what could have been out his windshield. After leading by over 2.5 seconds late in the run, he ended just 0.6 seconds shy of the top spot.
“Some lapped cars were racing us pretty hard, and I used more of my stuff than I wanted to,” Smith explained. “It showed with those last 10 laps. It trended tighter and tighter, and then with about three to go, we were going to be in trouble. There was one lap where I saved fuel and gave up four-tenths. Shoulda, coulda, woulda. I’m sure you can do the math.”
The dagger seemed to be the dominance by the No. 16 Quick Tie Products Inc. Chevrolet Camaro, leading four times for 118 laps. One would think heartbreak for the young 20-year old from Talking Rock, Ga. However, his confidence outweighs the context of his circumstances.
“This is what makes our team and makes me as an individual stronger and a better race car driver. It’s getting the experience, building off of it, debriefing, what we had, what we could do to make it better. If we ran like a bag of crap, I would be a different disappointed, but the disappointed I am right now is a really good disappointed to be.”
His ‘good disappointed’ feeling reflects from his recent runs with two consecutive top five finishes in the west coast swing. A fourth at Auto Club Speedway’s finale and his third today holds his team fourth in the championship standings.
“We’re going to one of my favorite tracks next weekend, and I know that (Kaulig Racing’s) stuff was good there last year so I’m looking forward to that.”
Smith looks to hold his head high as the series completes their west coast triad at Phoenix Raceway. Statistically, it’s arguably his best track from his experience in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. In four starts, he has one win, a pole and a worst finish of third. The United Rentals 200 waves the green flag at 4:30 p.m. ET on March 11.