Chandler Smith wins at Bristol. And it’s the 19-year old’s first-career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win, which came in Thursday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series UNOH 200 at Bristol. And for Smith, it couldn’t have come at a better time, as his championship hopes were on the line.
Following the race, Smith was nearly in tears as he relished in the victory.
“Man, god is good. God is so damn good,” an emotional Smith stated after climbing from the truck. “I’ve really been tested in the last year or two and tested my faith. I’ve kept it, man, this is unbelievable. I can’t thank everyone behind me, man. This is just amazing. SafeLite, Toyota, KBM, Kyle Busch, everybody — Jack Irving — It’s just incredible, I’m just speechless right now.”
The win came in an absolutely nuts finish between he, Sheldon Creed and John Hunter Nemechek.
On a restart with five laps to go, Smith restarted to the inside of Sheldon Creed, who had dominated the race. With four laps to go, the two made contact, which sent Creed into the wall with a flat tire.
John Hunter Nemechek would get around Smith briefly, but coming to three laps to go, Smith would retake the lead and he wouldn’t look back.
Smith would take the checkered flag ahead of Grant Enfinger. Smith punches his ticket to the Round of 8 in the Truck Series Playoffs.
Nemechek held on to finish third, while Stewart Friesen and Johnny Sauter were fourth and fifth.
Carson Hocevar, Matt Crafton, Zane Smith, Ben Rhodes and Todd Gilliland rounded out the top-10 finishers.
Two Drivers Eliminated From the Playoffs
Unfortunately, for Gilliland, he was two points shy — even with a top-10 finish — of advancing to the Round of 8.
“I pretty much knew I needed to beat [Ben Rhodes] to be in an okay spot,” a dejected Gilliland said. “Honestly, don’t even know what happened. They both just slipped by me, the 21 and 99. Just honestly heart broken. I’m at a loss for words. I don’t know what to say.”
His championship hopes are officially shattered for 2021. Austin Hill, who crashed hard on lap 188, also missed out on moving to the next round of the Playoffs.
“Yeah, I was just trying to get in line and spotter told me that [Josh Berry] was coming and that he was there,” said of the crash, which ended his Playoffs. “Kind of went down a little bit to see if I could spook him a little bit, see if maybe it could make him lift and I just misjudged it. I came down too much and as soon as he got into me, it just takes all of the rear stability out of it. And off we went.”
Here is the Playoff Grid heading into the Round of 8:
- John Hunter Nemechek, 3,050 points
- Sheldon Creed, -24
- Ben Rhodes, -31
- Zane Smith, -41
- Chandler Smith, -44
- Matt Crafton, -46
- Carson Hocevar, -48
- Stewart Friesen, -49
Photo Credit: Screengrab from FS1 race broadcast.