BRISTOL, Tenn. (AP) — Chandler Smith bumped past Sheldon Creed on a late restart Thursday night at Bristol Motor Speedway and held on for his first NASCAR Trucks Series victory and a spot in the second round of the playoffs.
The 19-year-old Georgia driver challenged Creed on the inside off a restart with five laps left, with the No. 18 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota making contact with Creed that left the defending series champion with a cut left rear tire.
“I’m speechless right now,” Smith said. “I’ve really been tested this last year or two and tested my faith. I have to thank everyone behind me… This is just incredible. It finally paid off. I’m just so happy right now.”
Creed ended up two laps down in 19th after leading 189 of the 200 laps on the half-mile oval.
“I was kind of at their mercy,” Creed said. “I knew I was going to get hit — I just didn’t know where. They did what they had to do to win. … I don’t know if they’re going to get away with that in the next round.”
Smith defended his rough tactics.
“I think any other driver that was in my situation would have done the exact same thing,” Smith said. “If you wouldn’t have done that, I think you’re in the sport for the wrong reasons.”
Smith advanced to the second round of eight drivers, with Todd Gilliland and Austin Hill eliminated. Creed and John Hunter Nemechek had already qualified for the next round. Matt Crafton, Stewart Friesen, Carson Hocevar, Ben Rhodes and Zane Smith also advanced.
Grant Enfinger was second, followed by Nemechek, Friesen and Johnny Sauter.
Creed was looking to become the first series driver to sweep a playoff round. He opened the 10-driver playoffs with a victory Aug. 20 at Gateway and won his second in a row at Darlington on Sept. 5.
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