If you’re looking for a strong class of rookies, look no further than the NASCAR Xfinity Series, because they’ve got them in spades.
Last weekend, it was Chandler Smith who dominated the race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but this weekend it was Sammy Smith – no relation – who was able to not only dominate but win Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Phoenix Raceway.
Driving the No. 18 Toyota GR Supra for Joe Gibbs Racing, Smith was able to lead a race-high 92 laps in Saturday’s United Rentals 200, en-route to collecting his first victory in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
Smith was challenged with holding off a number of different competitors on the restarts, including 102-time NASCAR Xfinity Series winner Kyle Busch, who the Johnson, Iowa native was able to wrangle the lead from with 50 laps to go.
However, in the final stint of Saturday’s race, the high school senior was tasked with keeping his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates behind him, first John Hunter Nemechek, and then Ryan Truex, who emerged from the final restart in second place.
While Truex was successful in getting the gap down to under a half-second, there would be no further advancement for the part-time Xfinity Series competitor, forcing the driver of the No. 19 Toyota GR Supra to settle for second, tying a career-best.
The Mayetta, New Jersey-native, who will return to the seat of the No. 19 Toyota Supra next weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway, finished six-tenths of a second behind his teammate, and the race’s winner Sammy Smith.
Sheldon Creed, who spun his No. 2 Chevrolet Camaro with about 50 laps to go, due to a flat tire, was able to make a miraculous recovery to third place after having older scuffed tires on his Richard Childress Racing machine.
Riley Herbst finished in fourth place, becoming the highest-finished Ford driver for the fourth consecutive event this year, and securing a record-setting seventh consecutive top-10 result.
Chandler Smith, who was battling for third coming to the white flag, completed the top-five, after he and teammate Kyle Busch made contact on the final lap, which caused both Kaulig Racing entries to lose time.
John Hunter Nemechek would fade to sixth, while Austin Hill and Josh Berry would earn finishes of seventh and eighth. For the second straight weekend, Kaulig Racing put all three of its entries inside the top-10, with Kyle Busch ninth and Daniel Hemric in tenth.
Justin Allgaier, who led 20 laps early in Saturday’s event, saw a long-winded streak of top-three finishes come to an end, after being involved in a late-race accident with Kaz Grala, Brandon Jones, and others.
Leaving Phoenix, Austin Hill is in command of the NASCAR Xfinity Series point standings, holding a 30-point advantage over John Hunter Nemechek. Justin Allgaier, Chandler Smith, and Riley Herbst complete the top-five.