By: Zach Catanzareti, Staff Writer
For Zane Smith, it couldn’t have ended soon enough… literally.
Following a late-race change of strategy, a two-lap dash set up rookie Taylor Gray alongside John Hunter Nemechek for the race win. And after contact from Nemechek sent Gray spinning in Turn 4, it was Smith who apparently inherited the race lead until NASCAR reversed the running order at the time of caution.
The ensuing restart saw Smith finish the night third and though the finish was a comeback performance, the Front Row Motorsports driver left bitter following Nemechek’s aggressive move on Gray for the lead.
“He just cleaned out the No. 17,” Smith said of the Nemechek contact with Gray. “When I see stuff like that, you know you can’t race a guy like that clean because he’s just gonna do it to you.”
Smith sent payback to Nemechek on the following restart, sending the No. 4 into the wall and out of contention. Grant Enfinger slipped past for the win.
“I roughed up the No. 4 [Nemechek],” he admitted. “I don’t know. It may have looked different from the fans’ standpoint, but it didn’t look at all bad what I did to the No. 4. From my seat, it looked pretty bad what the No. 4 did to the No. 17.”
It is safe to say Smith has lost trust with Nemechek in regards to late-race battles.
“Like I said, you can’t race those guys clean,” he said. “I would love to but I know if I pass the No. 4, he would just wreck me.
“I like John Hunter off the track, but man, he is gnarly on the track. Those guys are tough to race with.”
With an incident-filled night, including contact with Chandler Smith to end Stage 2, the series point leader was happy to leave with a podium result.
“A good, hard battle. A great rebound,” he said. “Just wasn’t quite on the right side of strategies there at the end.
“This was a night to get through. I’m pretty ready to get out of Indianapolis. Horrible qualifying effort, great truck, wrecked myself getting into Turn 1. Come from the back and have a shot to win it again. Just frustrating.”