Chandler Smith put on an absolute clinic in Friday night’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix Raceway.
Smith took the Stage 1 and Stage 2 win and he was out front when it mattered most, when the race’s checkered flag was displayed.
“First and foremost, all glory to the man upstairs, man,” Smith said. “Without him, none of this would be possible. I wouldn’t have all of these awesome relationships with all of these — my racing family. This is my family. Also, he’s blessed me with a great family and just being around great people. And being able to come out here at Phoenix Raceway in front of these fans tonight and being able to compete in high-tier equipment. I’m just extremely blessed right now.”
Smith took his second win of the season, and his Truck Series career on Saturday night as he bested Stewart Friesen for the victory. But while Smith snagged the race win, the focus was on the 2021 Championship battle.
Ben Rhodes is the 2021 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion. The driver of the No. 99 ThorSport Racing Toyota Tundra got around fellow Championship contender Zane Smith after a slight nudge with nine laps to go and never looked back as he finished the race in third.
“I can’t even breathe. That was the hardest last 40 laps I think I’ve ever driven in my life. I was doing things with the race car I probably shouldn’t be doing,” Rhodes said while tearing up. “It was dumb, but I had everything to lose. And we brought it home and we won it. I don’t even know what to say, this is crazy.”
Rhodes scored wins in the opening two races of the 2021 Truck Series season, but he hadn’t visited victory lane since then. Still, he stayed consistent all season long, and he was good when it mattered most to take home the championship.
In finishing third, Rhodes also secured the first-ever NASCAR Camping World Truck Series owners championship for ThorSport Racing.
Smith, who looked like on the final run of the race, that he could win the title, faded over the last few laps of the race to finish fifth.
For Smith it was a matter of his truck just going a little too tight in the closing laps to get the job done.
“Honestly just for my truck to turn, man,” Smith said. “We struggled with that since we unloaded. Insane year, really, we were eight laps away from winning the championship.”
John Hunter Nemechek, who won five races in 2021, made a rally, after a cut tire on lap seven put him two laps down, to finish seventh. But Nemechek’s rally wasn’t enough to secure a championship.
“Got run into in the first corner. Got in the fence. Somebody else ran into us on the left side,” Nemechek said of the opening few laps. “I mean, this thing is killed pretty much. Had the left front go flat. Went down two laps. Battled got both of our laps back. I don’t know, just short. Needed more laps, I guess. I felt like we had the best truck tonight, playoff-wise for sure.”
Nemechek came home third in the Championship battle.
Matt Crafton finished fourth in the Championship standings after a disappointing night resulted in a 12th-place finish. Crafton’s truck was ill-handling all race long.
Here are the top-10 finishers in Friday night’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Championship race:
- Chandler Smith
- Stewart Friesen
- Ben Rhodes (Champion)
- Sheldon Creed
- Zane Smith (second in points)
- Christian Eckes
- John Hunter Nemechek (third in points)
- Todd Gilliland
- Carson Hocevar
- Austin Hill