Zane Smith wins in Martinsville thriller, Championship 4 set for Phoenix

Martinsville Speedway was the host for the penultimate race of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs in the Round of 6. Four drivers below the cut line were racing for a chance at the championship, but only one of those of four could advance with the win.

As the checkered flag flew at the end of the United Rentals 200, Zane Smith was in the right place at the right time and captured the victory to advance to the Championship 4 next weekend at Phoenix Raceway. Prior to the race, he was below the cut line but on the white flag lap, race leaders Stewart Friesen, Todd Gilliland and Smith were side-by-side, fighting for the lead. All three made contact with Friesen turning then race leader Gilliland, which allowed Smith to drive right on by. When Smith assumed the lead, more contact occurred behind the leaders and the race ultimately ended under yellow giving the win to Smith.

“It (those final laps) was definitely wild to say the least,” Smith said about the win. “I knew with me being third, I was in a really good spot. Speed-wise, I don’t think we had anything for the 38 (Gilliland), I think he had fresher tires than us. I was worried with it staying green. For the final restart, I had the 16 (Austin Hill) behind me and kind of got him upset at the start of the race and I got flipped off on Lap 2.”

“I got shoved into the corner and luckily, I came out three wide (on the) bottom and pretty much just white-knuckled it in the end.”

Coming into the Round of 6 at Martinsville, none of the drivers were locked into the Championship 4 but the top two drivers, John Hunter Nemechek and Ben Rhodes, had a more than 30 point lead over anyone else. Via the metric system, Nemechek was awarded the pole once again and started on the front row with Todd Gilliland beside him.

There were some notable moments during the first two stages. The first caution came out on Lap 46 when Cory Roper spun in Turn 4 and there was a big pileup wreck on Lap 87 on the frontstretch. Second place starter Gilliland swept both stages by leading nearly every lap. Nemechek finished third in the first stage and second in the second stage. However, things began to worsen for Nemechek and some of the other playoff drivers during the final stage.

With 70 laps to go, Nemechek was running in the back as other drivers used a different strategy and stayed out to assume the top spots. Those drivers included Zane Smith, Carson Hocevar and Stewart Friesen. Nemechek was looking to make his way back up toward the frontrunners. Unfortunately for the No. 4 Kyle Busch Motorsports team, they found themselves in a losing battle with the No. 22 of Austin Wayne Self. Going into Turns 3 and 4, Nemechek attempted to make a pass on Wayne Self, but Self made contact with the No. 4 and sent Nemechek up into the wall and he was eventually out of the race with a 39th place finish.

Now, all Nemechek could do was sit and watch and hope for some good luck for the rest of the way in order to have a chance to race for the championship. More and more yellows fell late in the going and Smith continued to maintain the lead. However, right around 27 to go, Gilliland inched his way back to the lead and tapped Smith out of the way. As a result, Smith moved back into second and was -41 below the cut line.

Fortunately for Smith, he caught a break with a late-race caution due to the No. 51 of Corey Heim and the No. 41 of Dawson Cram who spun in Turn 4. Playoff driver, Matt Crafton, was caught up in the incident and Crafton spun around as well but made it through the melee with no contact to his No. 88 truck.

The contact set up a late-race overtime restart. Gilliland chose the inside lane as did Smith. Friesen chose the outside lane and was the first driver to line up right beside Smith. During the final laps, there was numerous contact between the leaders. Gilliland was seeking his first win since Circuit of the Americus back in May and seemed poised to do so until he was turned by Friesen. Going into Turn 1, Friesen had one last shot to make a move on Smith but ended up spinning which allowed Smith to claim the checkered flag and a Championship 4 spot at Phoenix next weekend. Among the others fighting for a championship are Matt Crafton, Ben Rhodes, and Nemechek.

There were 14 cautions for 89 laps and 10 lead changes among four different leaders.

Smith led four times for 65 laps en route to the checkered flag.

Championship 4:

Zane Smith
Matt Crafton
Ben Rhodes
John Hunter Nemechek

Official Results following the United Rentals 200 at Martinsville Speedway:

  1. Zane Smith, led 65 laps
  2. Austin Hill
  3. Tanner Gray
  4. Chandler Smith
  5. Matt Crafton
  6. Parker Kligerman
  7. Ben Rhodes
  8. Taylor Gray
  9. Sheldon Creed
  10. Timmy Hill
  11. Corey Heim
  12. Carson Hocevar, led four laps
  13. Kris Wright
  14. Danny Bohn
  15. Spencer Boyd
  16. Chris Hacker
  17. Stewart Friesen
  18. Tate Fogleman
  19. Hailie Deegan
  20. Austin Wayne Self
  21. Grant Enfinger
  22. Bret Holmes
  23. Dawson Cram
  24. Derek Kraus
  25. Todd Gilliland, led 133 laps, won both stages, 1 lap down
  26. Tyler Ankrum, 1 lap down
  27. Jack Wood, 1 lap down
  28. Josh Berry, 1 lap down
  29. Spencer Davis, 2 laps down
  30. Jesse Iwuji, 2 laps down
  31. Johnny Sauter, 3 laps down
  32. Sage Karam, 4 laps down
  33. Ryan Truex, 6 laps down
  34. Josh Reaume, 6 laps down
  35. Roger Reuse, 11 laps down
  36. Jennifer Jo Cobb, 14 laps down
  37. Cory Roper, 16 laps down
  38. Colby Howard, 30 laps down
  39. John Hunter Nemechek, led two laps, OUT, Crash
  40. Chase Purdy, OUT, Rear Gear

Up Next: The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will head out west to Phoenix Raceway for the final race of the season on Friday, Nov. 6, live on Fox Sports 1 and MRN Radio at 8 p.m. ET.



The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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