After occupying a timeslot of just under four hours, Friday’s NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event at Daytona International Speedway has finally concluded, albeit 21 laps short of its scheduled distance.
Despite a bunch of thrilling on-track activity, a persistent mist plagued the 2.5-mile superspeedway from the second lap of the race, which began just a couple minutes after 7:30 pm ET.
Zane Smith, the defending champion of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, was leading the event when the race’s final caution was thrown, just 31 laps from the race’s scheduled conclusion.
Smith was able to make what ended up being the race-winning pass on Corey LaJoie by darting to the inside in turn three, as Tyler Ankrum made a quick move to the outside lane, sending the Spire Motorsports entry into the middle.
With the victory, the 23-year-old has now become the second driver to secure back-to-back victories in the NASCAR Truck Series at Daytona International Speedway, both of which have come with Front Row Motorsports.
“I know there are about a million ways to get one at Daytona, but we’re proving that,” Smith said post-race. “Obviously wanted to go back racing there, somewhat, to duke it out with good friends of mine actually, but hey, we’ll take a win at Daytona any day we can get it.”
On Sunday, Smith will make his second start in the NASCAR Cup Series – and his first in the Daytona 500 – piloting an entry prepared by the same crew that provided him a race-winning piece for Friday’s 250-mile contest.
“Just a huge shout-out to everyone at Front Row Motorsports,” Smith continued. “This whole group, I’ve said it over and over again, they work their guts out, and they prove it. Locked into the playoffs, it’s like a repeat of last year.”
Tanner Gray, who sustained damage from two of the race’s three multi-truck accidents, was somehow able to recover for a second-place finish, in the first race for the newly-rebranded TRICON Garage team.
Christian Eckes, who alongside Corey LaJoie led a race-high 19 laps, finished in third place, despite having what seemed like the fastest truck throughout the entirety of the event.
Colby Howard scored a fourth-place finish in his return to CR7 Motorsports, a career-best for the driver out of Simpsonville, South Carolina. Grant Enfinger completed the top-five in Friday’s 79-lap contest.
Ty Majeski was able to record a sixth-place result despite being involved in the final accident of the event, 20 laps prior to the end of the event, while Tyler Ankrum, Corey Heim, Matt Crafton, and Chase Elliott completed the top-10.
Friday’s NextEra Energy 250 at Daytona featured a total of seven caution flags – three of which were for on-track incidents – which occupied 41 circuits around the 2.5-mile superspeedway.
— Joseph Srigley (@joe_srigley) February 18, 2023
Early in the race, Hailie Deegan, Dean Thompson, and Clay Greenfield found themselves in the garage before the race’s halfway point after an eight-truck accident exiting the tri-oval caused heavy damage to several trucks.
Within ten circuits of going back green, another multi-truck accident broke out, when race-leader Stewart Friesen was turned into the outside wall, causing damage to Ben Rhodes, Parker Kligerman, and several others.
Finally, after a green-flag run of 12 laps, Rajah Caruth triggered another multi-truck incident when he tried to thread the needle in turn three, collecting teammate Daniel Dye, along with eventual top-10 finishers Corey Heim and Tanner Gray.
Honestly, the race not being able to continue was probably a good thing for the team owners with entries remaining in the race, albeit the excitement for the upcoming season has been dampened because of some consistently rough weather.
Leaving Daytona, Christian Eckes leads the 2023 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series point standings by five points over Matt Crafton. Ty Majeski, Zane Smith, and Tyler Ankrum round out the top-five in points.
After an off-week, the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series will travel to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the second event of a highly-anticipated 23-race campaign.