Coming into Saturday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway, the plan for Chandler Smith and the No. 18 iBUYPOWER team was to collect as many stage points as possible in the opening two stanzas, ride around in the Final Stage to avoid the carnage and leave the Alabama track with as large of points cushion as they could heading to the cutoff race at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway.
The plan was executed well with Smith finishing fourth in Stage One and then winning Stage Two to collect 17 points. The 20-year-old driver also executed riding around the back of the field well in the Final Stage, but the “Big One” didn’t happen until the final lap of the race and left the No. 18 team with a 14th-place finish.
Smith will head into the final race in the Round of 8 at Homestead-Miami 30 points above the cutoff line for advancing to the Championship 4.
Stage One Recap:
- Smith started the 94-lap race from the second position after posting a lap of 53.879 seconds at 177.732 mph in Friday afternoon’s qualifying session.
- Working a strategy developed before the race, Smith’s teammate John Hunter Nemechek elected to take the top of the front row for the initial start, with Smith allowing Nemechek to slide in front of him once the field crossed the start-finish line.
- The strategy worked for three laps until Smith got caught trying to side draft the outside lane and left a hole open to the inside of him. Carson Hocevar was able to pull to Smith’s inside and shuffle him to the middle lane.
- A one-truck accident on lap 19 would bring Stage One to completion under caution with Smith in the fourth position.
Stage Two Recap:
- Veteran crew chief Danny Stockman called a fuel-only stop between stages and the iBUYPOWER Tundra would be the first truck to exit pit road.
- When Stage Two went green on lap 26, Smith and Nemechek reversed roles from the initial start, with Smith electing the top lane and dropping down in front of Nemechek on the inside lane once the field crossed the start-finish line.
- The Georgia driver would hold the lead across two cautions in the stage to collect his sixth stage win of the year and the 10 points that came with it.
Final Stage Recap:
- Before hitting pit road, Smith communicated to Stockman that his Tundra was “too free.” The veteran crew chief ordered up a four-tire and fuel stop with both trackbar and wedge adjustments. Knowing that they wanted to be at the back of the field to execute their strategy, the team pitted on the second lap and then topped off with fuel with one lap to go.
- The iBUYPOWER Tundra lined up 32nd when Stage Two went green on lap 45. He was still outside the top 25 when green flag pit stops began occurring on lap 62. Shortly after Smith hit pit road, a caution flag came out but per the rules the No. 18 team was still allowed to make their stop.
- Stockman originally called for two tires, but when Smith slid his tires getting into the box, he audibled to a four-tire stop knowing that they had extra time with the race being under caution.
- Once again, they topped off with fuel with one lap remaining before going green and took the ensuing restart from the rear of the field.
- Feeling that the “Big One” was going to happen shortly, Smith continued to ride around the back of the field, knowing he could head to Homestead-Miami with a fairly large points cushion if he could just avoid getting caught up in a wreck.
- A truck that had come to a halt on the track brought out the caution with two laps remaining and set up NASCAR overtime. Smith lined up 20th for the first attempt at a finish and when several trucks in front of him began to wreck on the final lap was able to move up to finish the race in the 14th position.
Chandler Smith, driver of the No. 18 iBUYPOWER TRD Pro for KBM:
How did your race go?
“Overall, I can’t be too disappointed with our day, our iBUYPOWER Toyota Tundra was really fast and we came home with only a scratch on the rear bumper. Getting the Stage Two win and finishing second in the opening stage allowed us to increase our buffer heading to Homestead and then the plan for the Final Stage was to ride around until the ‘Big One’ happened and it never really did until the very end.”
Talladega 250 Race Recap:
- Matt DiBenedetto earned his first career Camping World Truck Series victory. Ben Rhodes, Bret Holmes, Ryan Preece, and Chistian Eckes rounded out the top-five finishers.
- There were nine cautions for 36 laps and 25 lead changes among 11 drivers, including Smith who led twice for 17 laps.
NASCAR Camping World Trucks Championship Standings:
Smith leaves the second of three races in the Round of 8 with the most points of any driver (3116) but with Ty Majeski’s win at Bristol locking him into the Championship 4, sits second on the playoff grid 30 points above the cutoff line for advancing.
Smith will be behind the wheel of the No. 18 Safelite Tundra TRD Pro when the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series heads to Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway Oct. 22 for the final race of the Round of 8. Live coverage of the event will be on FS1, Motor Racing Network, and SiriusXM at 1 p.m. ET.