A lack of experience was no problem for no. 21 Zane Smith who finished third Tuesday night in his first NASCAR national series start at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Smith’s first NASCAR national series start at Charlotte came in Tuesday’s North Carolina Education Lottery 200 for the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series, driving a GMS Racing Chevrolet.
Prior to the race, Smith had never turned a lap in a NASCAR vehicle at Charlotte due to a condensed schedule that eliminated any practice and qualifying sessions. Smith’s only experience at the 1.5-mile track was racing in the ARCA Menard’s Series General Tire 150 in 2018, where he finished fifth in a start that came before ARCA became a part of NASCAR.
Despite this lack of experience, Smith rallied from starting 30th on the 40-truck grid to finish third in stage 1, before leading four laps and finishing seventh in stage 2.
Smith kept his nose clean throughout the rest of the race and re-took the lead with 37 laps to go when no. 51 Kyle Busch pitted. Smith was out in front for 10 more laps, but lost the lead to no. 13 Johnny Sauter with 27 laps to go.
Smith fell back to fourth but it didn’t last for long. In a three-wide, veteran-like pass on the backstretch apron on Busch and Sauter with 23 laps to go, the 20-year-old rookie moved back up to second.
Although Busch passed Smith back, Smith finished third and was only beat by two Cup veterans, Busch and race winner Chase Elliott, in his first NASCAR national series race at Charlotte, which caught the attention of NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Mark Martin and two-time Truck Series champion Todd Bodine.
You have my attention @zanesmith77 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻
— Mark Martin (@markmartin) May 27, 2020
How about Zane Smith. Driving one heck of a race
— Todd Bodine (@Team_Onion) May 27, 2020
Following Tuesday night’s Truck race at Charlotte, Smith is tied for second in points with Johnny Sauter. Smith and Sauter are 17 points behind current points leader no. 16 Austin Hill and 33 points ahead of 11th place no. 88 Matt Crafton.
Smith leads the rookie points standings by 25 over no. 18 Christian Eckes as the series heads to Atlanta Motor Speedway for race four of the season, June 6’s Vet Tix/Camping World 200 (TV: FS1; 1 p.m. EST).