By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
Late-race pit strategy at Richmond Raceway handed Chandler Smith his first top-five finish of the 2021 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season.
A caution with about 50 laps to go allowed for Smith, Matt Crafton and others to stay on track. They had pitted a couple cautions prior in the Toyota Care 250. On a restart with 40 laps to go, Smith forced his way by both Crafton and Johnny Sauter to take the lead.
Another quick caution gave the driver of the No. 18 JBL Toyota Tundra a brief reprieve from his competition. On the restart, his Kyle Busch Motorsports teammates John Hunter Nemechek and Kyle Busch took second and third behind him. Nemechek followed Smith for several laps. After leading the way for 24 laps, the 18-year-old slipped behind the No. 4 Safeway Toyota Tundra.
A few laps later, Smith was passed by team owner Busch for second. Over the final 15 laps, he lost one more spot to Tyler Ankrum. Smith held off fellow Toyota Racing driver Sauter to take the checkered flag in fourth.
“It was a really good team effort today,” Smith stated. “It was a really good points day and that’s what we needed. Proud of everybody on this JBL Toyota Tundra team.”
Starting mid-pack, Smith drove his way forward in a caution-free Stage 1. However, he failed to get inside the top-10 to earn any additional points. Smith did end the second Stage in 10th, earning one additional point.
The fourth-place finish is the first top-five for Smith this season and the ninth of his Truck Series career. His last top-five was at the season finale at Phoenix Raceway last year. The top-five ends a streak of finishes outside of the top-15 for Smith.
The top-five finish also moved Smith up from 15th in the points standings to be tied for 12th with Austin Wayne Self. He is 12-points behind the cutoff for the playoffs, held by Sauter. The Talking Rock, GA native is 141-points behind leader and teammate Nemechek.
The Truck Series returns to the track at Kansas Speedway Saturday May 1.
Feature Photo Credit: Photo by NKP / NKP Photo