RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Chandler Smith is feeling great in the NASCAR Truck Series playoffs.
Just over a week after he and his wife welcomed a baby, Chandler Smith Jr., the driver took the lead on pit road after the first stage and dominated the rest of the way to win at Richmond Raceway on Saturday night.
“Honey, this is for you. Junior, This is for you as well. I can’t wait to get home to you guys tonight. The blessings just keep stacking up,” Smith said after his third victory of the season.
Smith, who led the final 175 laps, sealed the victory by doing what he did all night, pulling away from John Hunter Nemechek on a restart with 28 laps to go after the lone caution for an on-track incident.
His victory in the second playoff race allowed him to join Grant Enfinger as drivers whose spots in the next round are secured with one more race in the first round. Enfinger won the playoff opened two weeks ago in Indianapolis.
“I’m taking this in and I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve it, but I’m going to soak it in,” Smith said. “I like how everything is going now for sure.”
Nemechek finished second, followed by pole-sitter and stage one winner Ty Majeski, Enfinger and Corey Heim.
The caution came after Nick Leitz got in front of Carson Hocevar in Turns 1 and 2, sending Leitz slamming into the wall. Hocevar was about to be passed by Smith and go a lap down, but the yellow flag preserved his lead-lap status.
The yellow flag sent the leaders to pit road for new tires, and once Smith beat Nemechek off pit road, he easily drove away. Majeski was third, followed by Enfinger and Taylor Gray.
Majeski led the last 69 laps of the 70-lap first stage, building a lead of more than five seconds, but he was just third coming off pit road, and once Smith got out front, he pulled away easily on the 0.75-mile oval.
It was a difficult night from the start for defending series champion Ben Rhodes, who started the race just 14 points behind points leader Zane Smith. Rhodes was nearly lapped by Majeski at the end of the first stage, then went a lap down to Chandler Smith with about 10 laps remaining in the second stage.
He finished 18th, two laps down, and was the only one of the 12 playoff contenders to finish outside the top 12.
The series is off until Sept. 9 at Kansas Speedway.
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