Rookie Corey Heim executed a bold final lap pass over teammate Chandler Smith and fended off the field to win the Fr8 208 at the newly reconfigured Atlanta Motor Speedway on Saturday, March 19, for his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win in his fifth series start.
The 19-year-old Heim from Marietta, Georgia, who competes part-time in the ARCA Menards Series for Venturini Motorsports and in the Truck Series for Kyle Busch Motorsports, led four times for 22 of 150-scheduled laps as he received a boost from teammate John Hunter Nemechek, who was two laps behind, to overtake teammate Chandler Smith at the start of the final lap. Then for a single lap, Heim fended off a pack of storming trucks to notch his first career victory in his second series start of the season.
The starting lineup for the event was determined through the Performance Metrics formula based on four statistics: drivers’ results, owners’ race and points results and the fastest lap from the previous Cup event. With that, Chandler Smith, winner of the previous scheduled Truck event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, started on pole position. Joining him on the front row was Stewart Friesen.
The use of the Performance Metrics formula occurred after rain cancelled all on-track activities on Friday, which resulted with the Truck competitors receiving a single practice session earlier on Saturday in place of on-track qualifying.
Prior to the event, Jordan Anderson, John Hunter Nemechek, Thad Moffitt, Chase Purdy and Ty Majeski dropped to the rear of the field due to unapproved adjustment to their respective trucks.
When the green flag waved and the race started, Chandler Smith peaked ahead with an early advantage until Friesen received a strong push from Matt DiBenedetto to take the lead. Then in Turn 3, DiBenedetto got into the outside wall in Turn 3 as the field overtook DiBenedetto’s slow truck through the turn. Meanwhile, Friesen led the first lap ahead of the field as the race continued to run under green.
Through the first five scheduled laps, Friesen was leading followed by Grant Enfinger, Carson Hocevar, Derek Kraus and Matt Crafton while Chandler Smith, Tyler Ankrum, Christian Eckes, Austin Wayne Self and Tanner Gray were in the top 10.
By Lap 20, Friesen continued to lead ahead of the field with the competitors mired in a tight, side-by-side battle for positions.
When the first stage concluded on Lap 30, Friesen captured his first Truck stage victory of the season. Enfinger settled in second followed by Kraus, Eckes, Matt Crafton, Gray, Chandler Smith, Ross Chastain, John Hunter Nemechek and Ankrum. Meanwhile, Hailie Deegan pulled her No. 1 David Gilliland Racing Ford F-150 to pit road as her left-rear tire was on fire. The incident was enough to terminate her event on pit road.
Under the stage break, the leaders pitted and Eckes emerged out in front with the lead. During the pit stops, Tyler Ankrum and Rhodes overshot their pit stalls. Chase Purdy and Brennan Poole were busted for speeding while Jesse Little and Chris Hacker were penalized for having a crew member over the pit wall too soon.
The second stage started on Lap 37 as Friesen and Eckes occupied the front row. At the start, the leaders battled dead even through the backstretch until Friesen stormed to the lead on the outside lane.
At the Lap 40 mark, Friesen was leading by a tenth of a second over Nemechek followed by Eckes, Crafton, Majeski, Kraus, Chandler Smith, Preece, Zane Smith and Enfinger.
Nearing the Lap 50 mark, the caution flew due to debris on the frontstretch that came off of the No. 20 Young’s Motorsports Chevrolet Silverado RST piloted by Matt Mills. Under caution, some led by Friesen pitted while the rest of the field led by Nemechek remained on the track.
With five laps remaining in the second stage, the race restarted under green. At the start, Nemechek received a push from Eckes on the outside lane to peak ahead of Majeski for the lead. A few laps later, Majeski received a push from Chandler Smith to move in front of Nemechek for the lead.
Then prior to the final lap of the second stage, Nemechek bolted to the inside lane to reassume the lead over Majeski followed by teammate Chandler Smith. Shortly after, the caution flew due to a tire tread that came off of Ross Chastain’s No. 41 Niece Motorsports Chevrolet Silverado RST. The caution was enough for the second stage scheduled for Lap 60 to conclude under caution as Nemechek captured the stage victory. Majeski settled in second followed by Chandler Smith, Eckes, Ankrum, Crafton, Dean Thompson, Gray, Hocevar and Preece were scored in the top 10.
Under the stage break, names like Friesen, Rhodes, Enfinger and Jack Wood remained on the track while the rest of the field remained on the track.
The third and final stage restarted under green on Lap 66. At the start, Grant Enfinger muscled his GMS Racing machine to the top spot over Friesen.
Then on Lap 68, the caution flew for a multi-truck wreck in Turn 3 that consumed Eckes, Jack Wood, Dean Thompson and Lawless Allen. Under caution, some including Preece remained on the track while the rest led by Enfinger pitted.
Seven laps later, the race restarted under green. At the start, Heim received a push from teammate Chandler Smith to retain the lead over Preece while the field jostled for positions.
The caution returned, however, on Lap 80 when Tate Fogleman spun on the frontstretch. Four laps later, the race proceeded under green as Heim moved into the lead over Preece. By then, Enfinger, who pitted, was penalized for running over his air hose on pit road.
Then on Lap 91, the caution once again flew when Jordan Anderson and Tanner Gray made contact entering Turn 1, which got Anderson loose as he came down across the track and hit Tate Fogleman, which then sent Fogleman hard against the Turn 1 outside wall.
With 38 laps remaining, the final stage started. At the start, Majeski shoved teammates Rhodes to the lead over Heim as the field fanned out to three lanes through the backstretch.
With the majority of the field settling in a long single file line, Rhodes was ahead of teammate Majeski, Heim, Preece and Zane Smith while Chandler Smith, Kraus, Nemechek, Chastain and Friesen were in the top 10.
Following an incident involving Kris Wright with 35 laps remaining, the race restarted under green six laps later. At the start, the field locked in a side-by-side battle for the top spot until Rhodes managed to retain the lead by a narrow margin. Shortly after, Heim challenged Rhodes for the lead as he led the following lap. With Heim and Rhodes running the outside lane along with Preece, Chandler Smith challenged on the inside lane followed by Kraus.
Not long after, the battle for the lead intensified between Heim and Chandler Smith, both of whom representing Kyle Busch Motorsports and as Georgia natives competing at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Meanwhile, teammate Nemechek, who was running near the top 10, was off the pace after making contact with Crafton through the backstretch.
Down to the final 20 laps of the event and with the battle for the lead fanning out to two lanes as the top-20 competitors were mired in a tight pack towards the front, Chandler Smith was ahead over teammate Heim followed by Tanner Gray, Friesen and Tyler Ankrum.
Five laps later, Chandler Smith settled with an advantage of more than a tenth of a second over teammate Heim while Friesen, Zane Smith and Rhodes were in the top five. Majeski was in sixth followed by Gray, Austin Wayne Self, Kraus and Ankrum.
With 10 laps remaining, Chandler Smith continued to lead followed by teammate Heim, Friesen, Zane Smith, Rhodes and the field.
Down to the final five laps of the event, the front-runners continued to run in a single file line with the top-11 trucks separated by more than a second as Chandler Smith remained in the lead ahead of teammate Heim, Zane Smith, Rhodes and Majeski. By then, Nemechek, who was two laps down, blended in with the leaders.
When the white flag waved and the final lap started, Heim made his move beneath teammate Chandler Smith followed by teammate Nemechek, Rhodes and the field while Chandler Smith was trapped on the outside lane. Through the backstretch and Turn 3, Heim continued to lead as Rhodes tried to make a final lap charge for the top spot. With the field fanning out approach the finish line, Heim managed to streak across the finish line in first place to claim his first checkered flag by 0.173 seconds over Rhodes.
With the victory, Heim became the 119th different competitor to achieve a Truck Series victory and the 12th to do so while competing for Kyle Busch Motorsports as KBM notched its fourth Truck victory at Atlanta. Heim is scheduled to compete in 13 of the remaining 21 Truck events in KBM’s No. 51 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro.
“That was awesome!” Heim said on FS1. “I can’t believe it. We just put ourselves in the right place at the right time. Our JBL Tundra TRD Pro was amazing today. Just can’t thank everyone enough back at the shop. Toyota Racing helped so much to get here and this truck looks awesome in Victory Lane. So glad to be here.”
“[There were] No team orders there [for the finish],” Heim added. “As long as one [Kyle Busch Motorsports] truck won, that’s all that matters. [Teammate Chandler Smith] did an awesome job defending for most of the race there and [teammate John Hunter Nemechek] stuck with me when it mattered the most. [I] Got to give all the credit to John Hunter Nemechek for helping out there. It’s surreal. Awesome.”
Rhodes settled in second place followed by Majeski while Chandler Smith fell back to fourth place in front of Zane Smith.
“I would’ve liked to duke it out with [Heim], just us and not have anyone else in the middle of it,” Chandler Smith said. “It is what it is. I’m happy for [the 51 team]. That’s their first win of the year and first win for Corey. That’s exciting, I remember how it was to get my first and it was a really cool moment. Happy for him and happy for that whole group. [Crew chief Danny] Stockman and everybody back at KBM. They give me a really fast Safelite/Charge Me/NGE Roofing Toyota Tundra TRD Pro today. It just sucks that it had to end like that. I wish we could’ve duked it out.
Friesen, Preece, Gray, Kraus and Austin Wayne Self came home in the top 10. Notably, Enfinger finished 14th, Eckes finished 17th, Nemechek and Crafton finished 24th and 25th and DiBenedetto settled in 30th.
There were 18 lead changes for 10 different leaders. The race featured seven cautions for 40 laps.
With his fourth-place result, Chandler Smith continues to lead the regular season standings by 13 points over Tanner Gray, 17 over Ty Majeski, 26 over Stewart Friesen and 27 over Ben Rhodes.
1. Corey Heim, 22 laps led,
2. Ben Rhodes, nine laps led
3. Ty Majeski, one lap led
4. Chandler Smith, 21 laps led
5. Zane Smith
6. Stewart Friesen, 49 laps led, Stage 1 winner
7. Ryan Preece, four laps led
8. Tanner Gray
9. Derek Kraus
10. Austin Wayne Self
11. Tyler Ankrum
12. Grant Enfinger, 14 laps led
13. Jack Wood
14. Chase Purdy
15. Jesse Little
16. Christian Eckes, three laps led
17. Chris Hacker
18. Jordan Anderson
19. Matt Jaskol
20. Spencer Boyd, one lap down
21. Kris Wright, one lap down
22. Timmy Hill, one lap down
23. Ross Chastain, two laps down
24. John Hunter Nemechek, two laps down, 11 laps led, Stage 2 winner
25. Matt Crafton, two laps down, one lap led
26. Colby Howard, two laps down
27. Carson Hocevar, three laps down
28. Brennan Poole, five laps down
29. Blaine Perkins, nine laps down
30. Matt DiBenedetto, 12 laps down
31. Tate Fogleman – OUT, Accident
32. Thad Moffitt – OUT, Engine
33. Lawless Alan – OUT, Accident
34. Dean Thompson – OUT, Accident
35. Matt Mills – OUT, Suspension
36. Hailie Deegan – OUT, Tire
Next on the 2022 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series schedule is the series’ second annual event at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, which will occur on Saturday, March 26, at 1 p.m. ET on FS1.