Slicing and dicing, strategies spare Sammy Smith in Phoenix
AVONDALE, Ariz. — A Saturday of strategies and slicing and dicing in Phoenix ended with Sammy Smith in the NASCAR Xfinity Series victory lane for the first time.
Smith earned his first Xfinity win and became the first NASCAR national series winner born after the Chase/playoffs were announced. He was born June 4, 2004, while the Chase was announced Jan. 21, 2004.
The 18-year-old Joe Gibbs Racing driver and high school senior is the 172nd winner in series history. Smith earned his place with a 0.641-second margin of victory over JGR teammate Ryan Truex.
Truex finished second for the third time in his NASCAR Xfinity career. The other times were at Phoenix in spring 2019 and at Dover in June 2012, when he won the pole, led 43 laps but lost the lead in lap traffic with six to go.
This time was different as Truex didn’t earn any stage points and ran outside the top-10 but worked his way to the front in the end.
“I don’t know if I misread the track but midway through the race, we were running about 15th and I just couldn’t get out of my own way. Jason Ratcliff gave me what I needed at the end and thankfully I had a good restart. I struggled with restarts and got it at the end. But, man, second again. It sucks, but at least I’m here,” Truex said.
Sheldon Creed finished top-10 in both stages, ran there all day and finished third but not without a spin in turn 2 on Lap 150.
Creed cut a left-rear tire after Chandler Smith made contact with him. Creed did a full spin and was sitting in the middle of the track butwas miraculously not hit.
Afterward, the team changed out the five-lap old tires but took a risk to help the RCR driver after he spun.
“We put old tires back on after we spin because the left-rear got cut. They were looking at the tires I just spun on and we decided to risk on what could’ve been some flat-spotted tires [besides the left-rear] since they were fresh. I picked off the first ten, then it got harder and the vibration got worse but it worked out,” Creed said.
Chandler Smith finished fifth behind Creed and Riley Herbst. On the final lap, Smith made contact with Kyle Busch in turn one.
The rest of the top-10 were as follows: John Hunter Nemechek (led 19 laps), Austin Hill (led 22 laps), Josh Berry, Busch, Daniel Hemric.
Nemechek had a restart violation on Lap 75 but went a lap down and caught a caution on Lap 85 that helped him gain 10 spots in pit road.
He recovered to finish 17th in stage two, then got to the top-10 within the first two laps of stage three and was fourth by Lap 140. Contact on Lap 177 briefly knocked Nemechek out of the top-10 but he ultimately finished sixth.
Josh Berry was the only JR Motorsports driver to finish top-10 overall, even though their cars ran up front.
Justin Allgaier even swept the stages and led 20 laps. However, they were more focus on playoff points than the win and were caught in traffic.
In stage three, he restarted 25th on Lap 100 and drove to 12th by the Lap 140 caution. Then on the third subsequent restart, Allgaier was bumped by JRM teammate Brandon Jones, which eventually led to a wreck with Kaz Grala.
Allgaier wrecked out and finished 36th while Jones finished 23rd.
The race’s chaos softened the blow of incidents with teammates that Allgaier and Josh Berry each had.
Teammate Sam Mayer bumped Berry on Lap 85 and spun him. Berry also spun on Lap 40 but cracked a joke over the spins and offered grace after finishing eighth.
STAGE ONE TOP 10: Justin Allgaier, Sheldon Creed, Sammy Smith, Riley Herbst, Daniel Hemric, Cole Custer, Kyle Busch, Sam Mayer, John Hunter Nemechek, Chandler Smith
STAGE TWO TOP 10: Allgaier, Austin Hill, Hemric, S. Smith, Busch, Anthony Alfredo, Mayer, Herbst, Kaz Grala, Creed
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