Coming to one lap to go in Saturday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series FR8 208 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, it looked like Chandler Smith was heading toward leading a Kyle Busch Motorsports 1-2 finish, as he was leading Corey Heim and their third teammate John Hunter Nemechek, who was a couple of laps down, was playing defense in third.
Then, the unthinkable happened. Nemechek shoved Heim to the inside of Smith and Heim cruised to his first-career NCWTS victory, while Smith faded to a fourth-place finish after being hung out.
As Heim performed the celebratory burnouts on the frontstretch, Smith stood on pit road anguishing about what had just occurred.
“I just don’t understand the thinking and the process behind it,” Smith said of Nemechek’s last lap move. “We all had a meeting before the race, work together just like we did in Vegas. We didn’t even relatively try to do that today. It’s just really irritating because I’m big believer on we [have to] do that, we [have to] do that. It comes to a point where I keep getting screwed over and is it worth it? I just need to look out for our group right now.”
While he did finish top-five, it was little consolation to Smith, who had led 21 laps on the day and was seemingly heading toward a for sure win — or at least a top-two finish. Smith says for whatever reason, he was the only KBM driver who was acting like a teammate on Saturday.
“All day, I mean, we go with a mindset — it’s speedway racing, is it not? Went with the mindset of we have to stick with teammates, teammates are going to win this race. Yada, yada, yada. I was the only KBM teammate today,” Smith seared. “Corey helped me one time, but any other time we never helped each other, if anything, we screwed each other. I’m the only one that really helped and I’m not saying that to toot my own horn, I’m just being real.”
While Smith had some frustration for Heim, who won the race, he was far more upset with the actions by Nemechek all race long. Smith even quipped that had team owner Kyle Busch been in the race, Nemechek would have drove differently.
“The restart where I pushed Corey to the lead, when he went to the bottom, I followed him. [Nemechek] could have went with me. We would have had three KBM trucks on the bottom,” Smith explained. “If it was Kyle [Busch], he would have done it.”
While Smith understands that Heim is also Nemechek’s teammate, he offered up that you can’t sacrifice one teammate to benefit the other, especially when you are in a position for both teammates to succeed.
“…a lapped truck ended up just dictating the finish there. [Nemechek] shoved [Heim] right by me. I mean, if it wasn’t him, it would have been a different result more than likely, I don’t know. It could have been,” Smith questioned. “A lapped truck just shoved the guy out that won the race, and then blocked everybody else that had a run. I get it, we’re teammates, you’re trying to help him out, but you fucked your other teammate.”
Complaining about the finish ultimately will not change the result, but Smith intends to speak with Nemechek so the two can iron out whatever differences there are between them.
“I don’t know, I’m not going to get mad and blow up about it. We need to talk, we definitely need to have a talk about it for sure.”
Smith doesn’t know why Nemechek doesn’t race him like a teammate, but it sure feels the two will be having a little bit of an awkward post-race debrief at the KBM shop next week.