A month after experiencing the biggest victory of his career at Daytona International Speedway, Zane Smith captured another thrilling win to his racing resume after winning the second running of the XPEL 2250 at Circuit of the Americas on Saturday, March 26.
The 22-year-old Smith from Huntington Beach, California, captured both stage victories and rallied from a first turn spin under the final 10 laps to overtake Alex Bowman, Kyle Busch and Stewart Friesen during the second of two overtime attempts in Turn 11. Following the chaos, Smith rocketed away from the field and a series of carnages ensuing behind to become the first repeat winner of the 2022 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season.
With on-track qualifying occurring on Friday, Sheldon Creed claimed the pole position with a pole-winning speed at 90.985 mph. Creed, however, dropped to the rear of the field due to unapproved adjustments made to his No. 20 Young’s Motorsports Chevrolet Silverado RST. Also dropping to the rear of the field due to unapproved adjustments included John Hunter Nemechek, Kris Wright, Kaz Grala, Logan Bearden, Lawless Alan, Jack Wood, Blaine Perkins, Tate Fogleman, Brad Perez, Will Rodgers, Matt Joskol, Matt DiBenedetto and Matt Crafton, who was forced to serve a pass-through penalty through pit road at the start of the event.
With Creed dropping to the rear of the field, Zane Smith, who posted a fast qualifying speed at 90.790 mph, led the field to the start of the event alongside Alex Bowman, who was piloting the No. 7 Spire Motorsports Chevrolet Silverado RST.
During the pace laps, Ty Majeski remained on pit road as his crew was working on a brake pressure issue to his No. 66 ThorSport Racing Toyota Tundra TRD Pro.
When the green flag waved and the race started, Bowman gained an early advantage through the incline and the first turn as he led early in the event over Zane Smith while Kyle Busch bolted his way into third place. With the competitors fanning out and scrambling for positions through the first two turns and a brief decline before entering a series of left and right turns (Turns 3 through 10), Bowman continued to lead. Then in Turn 11, Austin Wayne Self locked up his brakes and collided into Tayler Gray as both competitors spun. Despite the incident, the race proceeded under green.
With the first of 42 laps complete of the 3.4-mile, 20-turn circuit, Bowman was out in front by three-tenths of a second over Zane Smith followed by Kyle Busch while Stewart Friesen and Parker Kligerman were in the top five. Christian Eckes was in sixth ahead of Carson Hocevar, Ben Rhodes, Tyler Ankrum and Sheldon Creed.
During the second lap, Busch moved his No. 51 Safelite Toyota Tundra TRD Pro to the lead over Bowman’s No. 7 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Silverado RST. Meanwhile, Creed took his truck to the garage due to a mechanical issue.
Through the first five laps of the event, Kyle Busch continued to lead by nearly three seconds over Kligerman while third-place Bowman trailed by more than four seconds. Zane Smith remained in fourth ahead of Friesen while Carson Hocevar, Ben Rhodes, Rhodes Derek Kraus and Chandler Smith were in the top 10. Behind, John Hunter Nemechek was in 11th ahead of Tyler Ankrum, Grant Enfinger was in 14th, Matt DiBenedetto was in 16th ahead of Chase Purdy, Hailie Deegan and Kaz Grala. Meanwhile, Matt Crafton was mired back in 29th ahead of Brad Perez.
Not long after, Deegan was forced to serve a pass-through penalty on pit road for cutting through the esses.
Nearing the Lap 10 mark, pit stops under green occurred as Busch surrendered the lead to pit followed by Bowman, Nemechek, Chandler Smith, Hocevar, Enfinger, Grala, Chase Purdy, Colby Howard, Gray, Crafton and Deegan while Kligerman took the lead. Once Kligerman pitted on Lap 10, Zane Smith took the lead followed by Friesen.
When the first stage concluded on Lap 12, Zane Smith claimed his first stage victory of the season. Friesen settled in second followed by Rhodes, Kraus, Ankrum, DiBenedetto, Timmy Hill, Eckes, Kyle Busch and Kligerman.
Under the stage break, some led by Zane Smith pitted while the rest led by Kyle Busch remained on the track.
The second stage started on Lap 14 as Kyle Busch and Kligerman occupied the front row. At the start, Busch and Kligerman dueled for the top spot before Busch cleared Kligerman entering a series of left and right turns. Then in Turn 11, Kligerman took the lead beneath Busch, who was being pressured by Bowman. Busch, however, reassumed the top spot over Kligerman through the Turn 12 braking zone as he started to pull away.
Shortly after, the caution flew when Dean Thompson came to a stop in Turn 8 as he needed a wrecker to return to pit road.
Three laps later on Lap 17, the race proceeded under green. At the start and with the field fanning out entering the first two turns, Busch rocketed away with the top spot ahead of Kligerman and Bowman. Then in Turn 11, Gray spun for a second time while running in the top 10 as the field scattered. Four turns later, Grala spun while running in Turn 12. Despite the incidents, the race proceeded under green as Busch continued to lead by more than a second over teammate Nemechek followed by Bowman, Kligerman and Hocevar while Chandler Smith, Matt Crafton, Friesen, Zane Smith and Chase Purdy were in the top 10.
On Lap 20, the caution flew when Purdy made contact with Crafton, which spent both competitors spinning in Turn 19 as Crafton ended up getting his No. 88 Menards Toyota Tundra TRD Pro stuck in the gravel trap. The incident was one that left Crafton bitter towards Purdy.
Under caution, a majority led by Busch pitted while the rest led by Nemechek remained on the track.
With the event surpassing its halfway mark on Lap 21, the race proceeded under green. At the start, Nemechek pulled his No. 4 ROMCO Toyota Tundra TRD Pro ahead with the top spot though the first two turns followed by Zane Smith and Kraus while Rhodes was in fourth ahead of DiBenedetto. Not long after, Nemechek and Zane Smith dueled for the lead entering Turn 12.
Then in Turn 15, Zane Smith made contact with Nemechek, which sent Nemechek around as Smith assumed the lead. Behind, Crafton expressed his displeasure towards Purdy over the previous incident by spinning him in Turn 13.
Back at the front, Zane Smith was out in front ahead of Kraus while Rhodes was in third ahead of DiBenedetto and Chandler Smith. Following his spin, Nemechek pitted but was then penalized for an uncontrolled tire violation.
When the second stage concluded on Lap 26, Zane Smith collected his second stage victory of the event and of this season. Rhodes settled in second followed by Kraus, Kyle Busch, Chandler Smith, DiBenedetto, Friesen, Hocevar, Timmy Hill and Kligerman.
Under the stage break, a majority of the field pitted as Busch emerged with the lead.
With 13 laps remaining, the final stage started. At the start, teammates Busch and Chandler Smith dueled until the former managed to clear his teammate and the field through the first two turns and entering a series of left and right-hand turns (Turns 3 through 10).
The following lap, the caution returned when Hailie Deegan stalled in Turn 8 with damage to her No. 1 Monster Energy Ford F-150 as a result of colliding into Jack Wood, who wrecked with Kris Wright earlier.
Down to the final 10 laps, the event proceeded under green. At the start, Busch mounted ahead with the top spot as Carson Hocevar made his way into second place in his bid to battle Busch for the victory.
With the battles continuing around the 20-turn circuit, DiBenedetto suddenly stalled on Turn 17 due to a broken driveline. Then shortly after, the caution flew when Zane Smith got bumped and spun by Eckes in Turn 1 along with Kris Wright, who was trying to avoid Smith.
With seven laps remaining, the race proceeded under green. At the start, Busch launched ahead with another strong start entering the first turn before Stewart Friesen tried to force Busch off the track in a bid for the lead. Busch, however, was able to maintain the lead over Friesen, who overtook Hocevar for second, and the field in Turn 3 through Turn 10. Then in Turn 12, Austin Wayne Self spun while the race proceeded under green.
When the field returned to the start/finish line, Busch continued to lead by four-tenths of a second over Friesen while Bowman, who made bold moves through the esses during the restart, was up in third place followed by Kligerman and Chandler Smith. Grala, following his early spin, was in sixth followed by Rhodes, Hocevar, Nemechek and Eckes while Crafton was in 11th ahead of Colby Howard, Zane Smith, Kraus, Timmy Hill and Tyler Ankrum.
Down to the final five laps of the event, Busch extended his advantage to more than a second over Friesen while third-place Bowman trailed by more than two seconds. During the following lap, Bowman overtook Friesen for second place as he was left to track and challenge Busch for the lead and the win.
Then with three laps remaining, Derek Kraus got bumped by Ankrum and spun in Turn 1. Not long after, Eckes spun in Turn 12 following contact with Hocevar, but the event proceeded under green. Then the caution flew when Matt Jaskol stalled his truck in Turn 2. The caution was enough to send the event into overtime.
In the first overtime attempt, Busch maintained the lead while Bowman fended off Friesen and Kligerman to remain in second place while also challenging Busch for the lead. Behind in Turn 1, Kris Wright spun following contact. Two turns later, Purdy spun, but the race proceeded under green. Then, the caution returned when Kaz Grala and Colby Howard spun across the esses with Grala getting stuck in the Turn 4 gravel pit.
During the second overtime attempt, Busch muscled away with the lead while Friesen challenged and overtook Bowman for second place. Behind, Zane Smith battled and overtook Kligerman for fourth place while Nemechek was in sixth ahead of Rhodes.
Then in Turn 11, Bowman collided against Friesen and Busch while engaged in a three-wide battle for the lead. This allowed Zane Smith to bolt to the lead as Bowman retained second ahead of Friesen, who had a tire rub and was losing ground towards the front. Then in the Turn 12 braking zone, Friesen went wide and was off the course. During the following turn, Kligerman got loose, which allowed Busch to move into third place behind Bowman while Zane Smith continued to lead.
When the white flag waved and the final lap started, Zane Smith was leading by nearly two seconds over Bowman, who was soon overtaken by Nemechek while Busch was mired back in fourth place ahead of Ben Rhodes.
With a series of carnages ensuing behind the front-runners, Zane Smith was long gone with the lead as he was able to navigate his way smoothly around the 20-turn circuit with a clear race track in front of him, return to the final frontstretch to the finish line and claim the checkered flag by more than three seconds over John Hunter Nemechek.
In addition to becoming the first repeat winner of this season, Smith notched his fifth NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career victory, his second of the season with Front Row Motorsports and his first on a road course event. In addition, Front Row Motorsports’ No. 38 Ford F-150 team led by crew chief Chris Lawson went to Victory Lane at COTA for a second consecutive season after winning the inaugural event with Todd Gilliland in 2021.
“Truck races are crazy,” Smith said on FS1. “You’re never out of it until you’re out of it. Man, what a statement from this team. That’s so crazy to go back-to-back here at a road course like this. Huge thank you to them. It’s been a wild effort they’ve put in this year. That was a wild one, but never over til it’s over.”
Behind, Nemechek rallied from a spin early in the event involving race winner Zane Smith to settle in second place ahead of teammate/boss Kyle Busch, who led a race-high 31 of 46 laps, but was unable to grab his first road course victory in the Truck circuit. Following the event, Busch and Bowman met and exchanged words over the racing and the contact on pit road.
“The season has been frustrating for sure,” Nemechek said on MRN. “We never give up at [Kyle Busch Motorsports]. We never give up as an organization. I didn’t have the fastest truck today. We struggled most of the day. I got spun by Zane [Smith]. I’m a little ticked off there. That’s two weeks in a row that we’ve got screwed by [Smith]. On to next week. I’m going to run the Richmond Xfinity race [with Joe Gibbs Racing]…Hopefully, we can keep this ship righted the right way and take this and carry the momentum. It’s way better finishing second than 24th, 25th, 24th in the first three [races]. Still got a lot to go, a lot to learn and a lot to build on, but a long season ahead.”
We had a great race all day,” Busch said on FS1. “I really appreciate everyone at [Kyle Busch Motorsports] and their hard work and everyone there who does a good job building such fast trucks. I felt like we deserved that one, but it doesn’t matter if you deserve it or not. It’s just a matter if you get it. You have to be the first one to the checkered flag to win these things and we just weren’t.”
Rhodes came home in fourth place while Chandler Smith finished in the top five. Eckes, Ankrum, Hocevar, Friesen and Enfinger completed the top 10 on the track. Notably, Crafton settled in 13th ahead of Grala, Kligerman fell back to 19th place ahead of newcomer Brad Perez and Bowman slipped to 25th place with a wounded truck.
There were 10 lead changes for six different leaders. The race featured eight cautions for 12 laps.
With a fifth-place result, Chandler Smith continues to lead the regular season standings by 15 points over Ben Rhodes, 23 over Stewart Friesen and 31 over Zane Smith and Tanner Gray.
1. Zane Smith, 11 laps led, Stage 1 & 2 winner
2. John Hunter Nemechek, one lap led
3. Kyle Busch, 31 laps led
4. Ben Rhodes
5. Chandler Smith, one lap led
6. Christian Eckes
7. Tyler Ankrum
8. Carson Hocevar
9. Stewart Friesen
10. Grant Enfinger
11. Lawless Alan
12. Derek Kraus
13. Matt Crafton
14. Kaz Grala
15. Kris Wright
16. Chase Purdy
17. Tanner Gray
18. Tate Fogleman
19. Parker Kligerman, one lap led
20. Brad Perez
21. Will Rodgers
22. Timmy Hill
23. Spencer Boyd
24. Colby Howard
25. Alex Bowman, one lap led
26. Taylor Gray
27. Austin Wayne Self, one lap down
28. Logan Bearden – OUT, Fuel pump
29. Dean Thompson, six laps down
30. Ty Majeski, seven laps down
31. Matt DiBenedetto – OUT, Rear gear
32. Jack Wood – OUT, Dvp
33. Matt Jaskol – OUT, Electrical
34. Hailie Deegan – OUT, Accident
35. Blaine Perkins – OUT, Transmission
36. Sheldon Creed – OUT, Drivetrain
Next on the 2022 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series schedule is the series’ lone event of the season at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia, which will occur on April 7 at 8 p.m. ET on FS1.