Sunday, March 26, 2023

Zane Smith Wins in Thrilling Finish at Martinsville to Secure Place in Championship 4

Zane Smith Wins Martinsville
Zane Smith Wins Martinsville after a wild finish. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

What. In. The. World?!

Zane Smith needed to win in order to have a chance at a championship next weekend in Phoenix Raceway and somehow, some way, he pulled it off.

Smith made an epic three-wide move for the lead coming to the white flag in Saturday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series United Rentals 200 at Martinsville Speedway. Just as Smith was taking the lead, Todd Gilliland — who had the lead — got turned to bring out the caution.

Here is video of the absolutely bonkers finish on Saturday:

According to Smith, the ballsy move for the lead wasn’t actually how he planned things. It took a shove from a rival from behind to pull it all off.

“Man, I did not want Todd in front of me, he’s a good buddy of mine,” Smith explained. “But honestly, I got shoved by the 16, I pissed him off earlier in the race. So, it wasn’t all me. Man, such hard racing.”

For Gilliland, it was an absolute heart breaking way for the race to end. He won both Stages and flat-out dominated Saturday’s race by leading 133 of the 200 laps. In the end, it was all for not.

Gilliland finished 25th as he spun across the finish line as the white flag was displayed.

Austin Hill, who gave the shove to Smith, finished second, Tanner Gray came home third and Chandler Smith finished fourth.

Matt Crafton was able to minimize the damage in a late-race spin to finish fifth. The finish was good enough to secure Crafton’s place in the Championship 4.

Parker Kligerman who got into a couple of scuffles with Johnny Sauter finished an impressive sixth in the Henderson Racing machine.

Ben Rhodes, Taylor Gray, Sheldon Creed and Timmy Hill rounded out the top-10 finishers in the race.

Creed, the defending series champion, was bounced from the Playoffs, despite a decent rally late after being slammed into the wall after what he felt was disrespectful racing by Matt Crafton late in the race.

“Just one of the last restarts, I was next to the 88 and he just drove into the 98, his own teammate,” Creed said. “Punted us up the racetrack. Ended up getting put into the fence because of it. Went back to 23rd and come back to finish ninth or whatever it was.”

Still, Creed ended up four points shy of moving on to Phoenix with a chance to defend his title.

“Frustrating because I feel like I have respect for Matt and look up to the guy while he’s racing,” Creed explained. “And raced him clean all year. I feel like we gave respect to everybody all day. Just tried to race really clean and earn our points the honest way. And then just got driven into. Not that I haven’t done it in the past, but the circumstances and not making the Final 4, just tough.”

While Creed finished four points outside the cutline, John Hunter Nemechek — the favorite for the championship — narrowly escaped Martinsville four points above the cutline.

Nemechek was sent for a ride on lap 130 by Austin Wayne Self. The crash ended Nemechek’s day and he was credited with a 39th-place finish.

Video: Austin Wayne Self Crashes Championship Favorite John Hunter Nemechek at Martinsville

The four drivers who have advanced to the Championship 4 at Phoenix Raceway are: Zane Smith, Ben Rhodes, Matt Crafton and John Hunter Nemechek.

The four drivers who were eliminated: Sheldon Creed, Stewart Friesen, Chandler Smith and Carson Hocevar.

Toby Christie
Toby Christie
Toby is the Founder, and Editor-in-Chief of Toby is also the co-host of The Final Lap Weekly Podcast. Additionally, he is a NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) award-winning writer, and has followed the sport as a fan since 1993.

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