By Justin Schuoler, Staff Writer
FONTANA, Calif. – An up and down weekend for Chandler Smith ended on the up with a top five finish in the last race at Auto Club Speedway on its 2-mile configuration.
“It went really good other than the fact I made a lot of goofy mistakes once again, way more than I anticipated myself to make today which cost us a better finish,” Smith shared after the race.
A third and a 10th in stages one and two respectively earned him enough overall points to score the second most points behind race winner John Hunter Nemechek. Despite the strong effort, Smith still looks at the little things that may have cost him a chance at the trophy.
“We finished P4,” Smith continued. “I mean, that’s all right and all, but if I had done a better job on my end on that green flag pit stop to put us in a better position, I don’t know. I’m a believer, everything happens for a reason so I’m gonna live and learn, take what we got and move forward.”
It’s no stranger that Kaulig Racing can put on strong performances in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Smith took over the ride that won the regular season championship last year with now Cup Series driver AJ Allmendinger. The offseason proved the only change they made was forward progress.
“Kaulig Racing ran pretty solid here last year, and they’ve been building on some things from last year that carried over to this year, and we validated that at the test,” Smith explained. “I had a general idea of what the balance was going to be. As far as how abrasive the surface is and fall off, this is my background from super late model racing so I was really looking forward to this. If we could take this exact surface and make it into a short track, that would be awesome.”
Smith added that extra note about Auto Club Speedway since it is the last ever race on the 2-mile oval, since the Cup race happened earlier that day. Their originally scheduled slot was the day prior, but was rained and snowed out, postponing the Production Alliance Group 300 to Sunday night. Many Xfinity drivers spent the evening doing various things around Los Angeles, but Smith spent some valuable time with his wife and enjoying some west coast chicken.
“Me and my wife actually brought the PlayStation out here,” he smiled. “Kaulig Racing treats me really right so we have a really nice hotel room. Plugged up the PlayStation, played some zombies all day. And we got some (Raising) Canes. It’s not a PSA either. It’s actually really good. We need one out on the east coast.”
As for Smith’s real world efforts, he did earn his first career Xfinity top five in just his fifth start. The rookie is showing great speed and persistence, and knows he can be a threat if he’s able to keep focus and his learning hat on.
“I’m really looking forward to Richmond (Raceway) in the Cup car and Xfinity. I’m personally really strong at Richmond so bringing over some of my knowledge from what I’ve learned there in the past from (Kyle Busch Motorsports) and whatnot. Hopefully we’ll have a solid run there. Honestly, I’m just looking forward to the season. We had a really fast Quick Tie Products Chevy Camaro today, so I’m really looking forward to building off on this and really curious to see where we end up on points after tonight.”
He will be pleased to learn his fourth place finish moves him up to fourth in the standings after the first two races of the year.