LAS VEGAS — Rookie Chandler Smith led over half of Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway but Austin Hill and Justin Allgaier kept him from getting his first-ever Xfinity win.
Instead, Hill drove his No. 21 RCR Chevrolet into victory lane after besting Allgaier and Smith. They all finished within a second of each other at the end of the final 103-lap green flag run of the 200-lap race.
Hill has now matched his 2022 mark of two wins after just three races. He also won the first stage and led three times for 19 laps Saturday.
Hill passed Chandler Smith with just two laps to go after Smith had the car to beat. The NXS rookie led 118 of 200 laps and even held over a 3-second lead on the RCR driver at one point in the final green-flag run.
“I needed some tire life. I raced lap cars a little too hard and they weren’t giving it up easy. It is what it is,” Smith commented post-race.
Despite the loss, third-place is still Smith’s best career NXS finish.
Allgaier snuck by Smith to finish second and nearly completed his Stage Three comeback with a win.
The JRM driver served a drive-through penalty after going below the yellow/white line before the start-finish line on the Lap 78 restart.
Allgaier finished the second stage in 26th but a good pit stop and a fast car put him into the top 10 within 10 laps of the third stage beginning.
Then, he showed long-run strength and was second before the Lap 142 pit stop. He lost track position during the stop and ultimately finished second to Hill.
Top 10 finishers: Austin Hill, Justin Allgaier, Chandler Smith, Kyle Busch, Josh Berry, John Hunter Nemechek, Sam Mayer, Riley Herbst, Sheldon Creed, Daniel Hemric
Berry finished fifth after spinning in turn four on Lap 75.
Parker Kligerman finished 11th after spinning in turn two on Lap 4. After the spin, Kligerman wasn’t happy with John Hunter Nemechek.
“I don’t know what John Hunter was doing. It was so damn early and he ran into me. If he wants to talk to, I will, but the spin set our day apart. To say I’ll be as nice of a racer going forward is a mistake to say,” Kligerman commented.
Garrett Smithley, Parker Retzlaff and Joey Gase ran into issues and finished 36th through 38th, respectively.
A fuel cable issue knocked Gase out of the race after completing 156 laps.
Retzlaff’s car was damaged early on in the race. Then, the young driver was in and out of the garage in the second stage..
“We got a ton of damage on Lap 2 on that restart. It killed the nose and we thought something was broke but we’re not even fully sure what happened yet. It’s disappointing, we felt good in practice,” Retzlaff commented.
Smithley’s car started smoking in the second stage. Upon pitting, the team found an issue with the steering pump reservoir caused the smoke.
“It seems like the bolts broke or something internally happened but, long story short, the [power steering] reservoir dumped fluid and caused smoke but we were eight laps down by that point. We came home in one piece, though,” Smithley said.
Stage 1 Top 10: Nemechek, Allgaier, Hill, C. Smith, Herbst, Hemric, Busch, Creed, Berry
Stage 2 Top 10: Hill, Brandon Jones, Busch, Mayer, Sammy Smith, C. Smith, Herbst, Cole Custer, Brett Moffitt, Creed
The next race for the NASCAR Xfinity Series is the United Rentals 200 at Phoenix Raceway, March 11 (4:30 p.m. ET; TV: FS1; Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).