Saturday’s Fr8 208 came down to a battle of two 19-year-old drivers for Kyle Busch Motorsports who cut their racing teeth on the quarter-mile track at Atlanta Motor Speedway battling for the win and their home state venue. With 20 laps remaining, Chandler Smith made his way past fellow Georgian Corey Heim for the lead and would remain out front when the field took the white flag as he appeared to be closing in on his second consecutive win of 2022, after winning on a last-lap pass at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The third KBM entry with John Hunter Nemechek had found himself blended in behind Smith and Heim, despite being two laps down after suffering a flat tire under green-flag conditions. As Heim made a move to the inside of Smith, Nemechek followed him, giving him the push that resulted in successfully completing the last-lap pass, while Smith fell back to fourth as the field crossed the stripe.
Despite the disappointing finish, Smith maintained his lead in the Truck Series standings. After three races he sits 13 tallies ahead of Tanner Gray.
Stage One Recap:
- Smith started Saturday’s 135-lap event from the pole after Friday’s practice session was washed out and the field was set based on NASCAR’s performance matrix.
- The Safelite Tundra got a slow start and began falling back through the field. On lap 15, Smith was scored in the ninth position, but over the final 15 laps of the stage rallied back to finish seventh.
Stage Two Recap:
- After Smith communicated that the handling of his Toyota was “perfect,” veteran crew chief Danny Stockman ordered up a fuel-only stop in an effort to regain some of the track position they had lost.
- The 19-year-old Georgia native would elect to line up on the top of the third when Stage Two went green on lap 37.
- After the second caution of the race occurred on lap 49, Smith once again communicated that he was pleased with the handling of his truck. After staying on track, he elected to line up on the inside of the second row for the lap-55 restart.
- On the final lap of the stage, Smith tried to make a move to get the stage win but got “plowing tight” and would have to settle for a third-place result.
Final Stage Recap:
- Between stages Stockman summoned his young driver to pit road for four fresh tires and a full load of fuel. After returning to the track, Smith would line up on the inside of the fifth row when the Final Stage went green on lap 66.
- As cautions began to breed cautions, the Toyota Racing development driver slowly began to move forward. He lined up on the inside of the second row on a restart with 24 laps remaining.
- After getting shuffled back a few positions, the talented teenager began his march forward. With 20 laps remaining he made his way to the inside of Heim and would clear his teammate for the race lead.
- Heim tucked in behind Smith and logged laps waiting to the end of the race to size up a move. After having a flat tire and a subsequent green-flag pit stop, Nemechek came back on the track and was able to slide in behind his two KBM teammates, helping them keep their distance from the trucks scored from third on back.
- On the final lap Heim made his move to the inside and Nemechek elected to follow, leaving Smith without momentum on the outside lane and causing him to get shuffled back to fourth as the field crossed the field.
Chandler Smith, driver of the No. 18 Safelite Tundra TRD Pro for KBM
What did you need at the end of the race to bring home the win?
“Honestly just for lapped cars not to get in the mix of lead-lap cars there. I would’ve liked to duke it out with the 51, just us and not have anyone else in the middle of it – it is what it is. I’m happy for them (the 51 team) that’s their first win of the year and first win for Corey (Heim). That’s exciting, I remember how it was to get my first and it was a really cool moment. Happy for him and happy for that whole group. Stockman and everybody back at KBM, they give me a really fast Safelite/Charge Me/NGE Roofing Toyota Tundra TRD Pro today. It just sucks that it had to end like that, wish we could’ve duked it out.”
Fr8 208 Recap:
- Corey Heim picked up the first win of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career. Ben Rhodes, Ty Majeski, Chandler Smith, and Zane Smith rounded out the Top-five finishers.
- There were seven cautions for 40 laps. There were 10 lead changes among 10 drivers, including Smith who led twice for 21 laps.
How Smith’s KBM Teammates Fared:
- Corey Heim, driver of the No. 51 Toyota, finished first.
- John Hunter Nemechek, driver of the No. 4 Toyota, finished 24th.
Camping World Trucks Regular Season Driver Standings:
Smith held his lead in the NASCAR Camping World Trucks series regular season standings. After three events, he sits 13 tallies ahead of Tanner Gray.
Smith will be back behind the wheel of the No. 18 Safelite Tundra when the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series resumes action Saturday March 26 at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. Live coverage of the XPEL 225 will be on FS1, Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM at 1 p.m. ET.