A strategy call by veteran crew chief Danny Stockman put Chandler Smith out front for the Final Stage on Friday night’s inaugural NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event at Knoxville Raceway, a famed half-mile dirt oval. Smith would remain out front for the next 72 laps, safely ahead of the melee that ensued behind him, with other drivers knocking into each other and knocking each other out of the race, for a total of nine cautions spanning 48 laps in the Final Stage.
With worn out tires, Smith managed to hold off the field during the first two overtime periods, but when a quick caution slowed the field during the third overtime, NASCAR ruled that Austin Hill had narrowly edged past Smith into the lead at the time the caution occurred.
With the lead, Hill was able to restart on the preferred inside lane with Smith to his outside for the fourth and final overtime. After taking the green, Hill ran Smith up the hill heading into Turn 1 and caused the JBL Tundra to fall back to the fourth position, but as the two trucks that passed Smith battled and bumped through Turns 3 and 4, he was able to complete a three-wide pass coming to the white flag and ended the event with the second runner-up finish of his Camping World Trucks career.
Stage One Recap:
- Smith lined up 10th for what was scheduled to be a 150-lap event based on the combination of his fourth-place finish and passing points earned in the first qualifying race.
- When the first caution of the night occurred on lap 15, he was scored in 11th and communicated to Stockman that his JBL Tundra was “snug center and snappy off.”
- Despite reporting that he laced rear grip, Smith had worked his way up to the sixth position when a one-truck spin slowed the field for the second time with eight laps remaining in the stanza.
- Having to start from the outside lane, the Georgia native would lose three spots on the ensuing restart and end Stage One scored in the ninth position.
Stage Two Recap:
- During the controlled caution, the JBL team would put four fresh tires on Smith’s Toyota, fill it with fuel and make a chassis adjustment. With one competitor electing not to pit, the No. 18 Tundra would line up 10th when Stage Two went green.
- Smith would remain just inside the top 15 for the entirety of the second stanza but was able to gain three positions over the final 15 laps as Stockman reported that he was running lap times faster than the leaders.
- After crossing the stripe 12th, Smith pleaded to Stockman that if there was anything he could do to get him track position that he felt he would be able to pull away from the field. Stockman obliged and elected not to pit before the start of the Final Stage, while the top 11 trucks came for fresh tires.
Final Stage Recap:
- The JBL Tundra led the field to the green for the start of the Final Stage. As patience among competitors grew thin, cautions bred cautions, and each time, despite having tires with 50 more laps on them than the trucks he was battling, Smith was able to hold serve on six restarts.
- On a restart with five laps remaining in the scheduled event, Smith easily cleared Carson Hocevar through Turns 1 and 2 and had opened a 10-truck length lead when the 11th caution of the night occurred with just four laps remaining and set up NASCAR overtime.
- The field was unable to make it through Turns 1 and 2 on first attempt to finish the race, with a 17-truck accident bringing out the 12th caution of the night.
- After a nearly 15-miunte red-flag period, Smith once again held serve on the restart despite a bump from behind that sent him sideways, but once again the field didn’t make it through Turns 1 and 2 and the caution flew once again.
- During the third attempt at NASCAR overtime, Smith raced side-by-side with Austin Hill through Turns 1 and 2 and as another caution flew, officials ruled that the nose of Hill’s Tundra was ahead of Smith’s.
- With used up tires and the disadvantage of starting on the outside lane, Smith fell back to fourth as the field went down the backstretch during the fourth attempt to complete the race in overtime. He was able to make a charge into Turn 3 and as the second and third-place trucks bounced off each other he came off Turn 4 in second.
- He would hang on to the runner-up position but crossed the stripe 1.2 seconds behind Hill as the field finally made it through two laps to end the race.
- The runner-up finish was the second of Smith’s career. He equaled the career-best finish he registered in 2019 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.
What happened in the final restarts of the race?
“First of all, just have to thank Danny (Stockman, crew chief) and all the guys on this No. 18 JBL Toyota Tundra team. They worked their tails off on this thing and we got it really good in practice. We fell back there in the race, and I couldn’t run the top, but we were able to make it work on the bottom. We needed track position, but we were able to lead a bunch of laps. I don’t think the call was right (at the end with regard to line-up) that they (NASCAR) made to be honest, but it is what it is and that’s part of it.”
Corn Belt 150 Recap:
- Austin Hill scored the Camping World Truck Series victory, beating Smith to the checkered flag by 1.207 seconds. Grant Enfinger, Todd Gilliland, and Derek Kraus rounded out the top-five finishers.
- There were 14 cautions for 80 laps. There were 20 lead changes among seven drivers. Smith led seven times for a race-high 71 laps.
How Smith’s KBM Teammates Fared:
- Brian Brown, driver of the No. 51 Toyota, finished eighth.
- John Hunter Nemechek, driver of the No. 4 Toyota, finished 11th.
Camping World Trucks Driver Championship Standings:
Smith and the No. 18 team maintained the 11th position in the Camping World Truck Series championship standings. With Grant Enfinger in the eighth spot not being playoff eligible, Smith now sits 40 points ahead of Derek Kraus for the 10th and final playoff spot with just one race remaining in the regular season. Smith is 13 tallies behind Stewart Friesen for the ninth spot on the playoff grid and 21 behind Carson Hocevar for eighth.
Smith will be back behind the wheel of the No. 18 JBL Tundra when the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series resumes action Saturday, Aug. 7 at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International Raceway. Live coverage of the United Rentals 176 will be on FS1, Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM at 12:30 p.m. ET.