A late-race caution with 13 laps remaining and an eight-lap dash to the finish could not stall Zane Smith’s dominant run in the Sunflower state as he went on to claim his third NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory of the season in the Heart of America 200 at Kansas Speedway on Saturday, May 14.
The 22-year-old Smith from Huntington Beach, California, led four times for a race-high 108 of 147 laps as he rocketed away from Ty Majeski, John Hunter Nemechek and the field during an eight-lap shootout to the finish to become the first three-time winner of this year’s Truck season.
With on-track qualifying occurring on Saturday, John Hunter Nemechek notched his third pole position of the season after posting a pole-winning lap at 176.644 mph in 30.570 seconds. Joining him on the front row was teammate and rookie Corey Heim, who qualified at 175.965 mph in 30.688 seconds.
Prior to the event, Tate Fogleman and Matt DiBenedetto dropped to the rear of the field due to unapproved adjustments to their respective trucks. In addition, Stewart Friesen started at the rear of the field after he was unable to participate during Saturday’s practice and qualifying sessions amid a delayed flight from New York. As a result, NASCAR Cup Series competitor Bubba Wallace practiced and qualified Friesen’s truck in fifth place while Friesen arrived in time for the event.
When the green flag waved and the race started, teammates Nemechek and Heim battled dead even entering the first three turns until Nemechek gained a huge run on the outside lane to pull ahead and lead the first lap ahead of Heim, Zane Smith, Ty Majeski and the field.
Two laps later, Nemechek and Smith engaged in a tight battle for the lead while Majeski battled and overtook Heim for third place. By the fourth lap, Smith moved his No. 38 Speedco Ford F-150 into the lead.
Through the first 10 laps of the event, Zane Smith was leading by more than a second over Heim. Meanwhile, Nemechek was back in third place while Majeski and Chandler Smith were in the top five. Behind, Derek Kraus was in sixth followed by Ben Rhodes, Tanner Gray, Matt Crafton and Colby Howard while Carson Hocevar, Chase Purdy, Riley Herbst, Tyler Ankrum and Christian Eckes were in the top 15. Hailie Deegan was in 16th ahead of rookie Jack Wood, Stewart Friesen, rookie Dean Thompsons and Grant Enfinger.
Shortly after, Blaine Perkins spun across the backstretch after making contact with Tate Fogleman, but he was able to nurse his truck back to pit road without sustaining any damage and the event remained under green.
By Lap 20, Zane Smith was being challenged by Heim for the lead. While Heim gained a huge run in Turn 3 to take the lead, Smith pulled a crossover move to issue another challenge for the top spot. Heim, however, gained another strong run through Turns 2 and 3 to assume the lead for good on Lap 22 amid lapped traffic.
At the Lap 25 mark, Heim extended his advantage to more than a second over Zane Smith while Majeski, Chandler Smith and Nemechek occupied the top five.
When the first stage concluded on Lap 30, Heim streaked his No. 51 JBL Toyota Tundra TRD Pro across the start/finish line and claim his first career stage victory. Behind, Majeski overtook Zane Smith for the runner-up spot while Chandler Smith, Nemechek, Kraus, Rhodes, Crafton, Tanner Gray and Hocevar were scored in the top 10. By then, Friesen was up in 15th place while DiBenedetto was mired in 21st.
Under the stage break, the leaders pitted and Heim retained the lead ahead of teammate Nemechek, Zane Smith, Tanner Gray, Rhodes and Ankrum.
The second stage started on Lap 36 as Heim and Zane Smith occupied the front row. At the start and with the front-runners locked in a tight battle through double lanes, Heim and Zane Smith dueled for the lead through the first two turns until Heim received a strong push from teammate Nemechek’s No. 4 Mobil 1 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro to clear the field and assume the lead.
During the following lap, however, Zane Smith reassumed the lead and slowly pulled away as the field behind jostled for positions.
By Lap 40, Zane Smith was leading by eight-tenths of a second over Nemechek while Heim, Rhodes and Gray were in the top five. Behind, Friesen worked his way up to seventh behind Majeski while Hocevar, Colby Howard and Ankrum were in the top 10.
Ten laps later, Zane Smith continued to lead by less than two seconds over Heim while Nemechek, Rhodes and Majeski remained in the top five.
When the second stage concluded on Lap 60, Zane Smith, who was leading by more than two seconds, claimed his fourth stage victory of the season. Heim settled in second followed by Nemechek, Majeski, Rhodes, Hocevar, Gray, Kraus, Howard and Friesen.
Under the stage break, the leaders pitted and Rhodes assumed the lead ahead of Zane Smith, Heim and the field.
With the race reaching its halfway mark on Lap 67, the final stage started. At the start, Zane Smith muscled his way back to the lead ahead of Rhodes, Nemechek and the field with the competitors jostling for positions and fanning out to multiple lanes.
With 55 laps remaining, Zane Smith stabilized his advantage to more than three seconds over Heim while Rhodes, Nemechek and Majeski were in the top five. Meanwhile, Eckes was in sixth followed by Hocevar, Kraus, Purdy and Ankrum while Friesen was in 11th ahead of Chandler Smith, Colby Howard, Matt DiBenedetto and Hailie Deegan. Crafton was in 16th ahead of Grant Enfinger, Tanner Gray, Riley Herbst and Dean Thompson.
Eleven laps later, the caution flew for an incident involving Kris Wright in Turn 2. At the moment of caution, Zane Smith was leading by more than three seconds over Heim.
Under caution, the leaders returned to pit road for service and Heim reassumed the lead followed by Zane Smith, Rhodes, Nemechek, Majeski and Eckes.
With 39 laps remaining, the race proceeded under green. At the start, Zane Smith and Heim made contact with the former assuming the lead through the first two turns and the backstretch while Nemechek and Eckes moved up to second and third. Meanwhile, Heim slipped back to fourth in front of Friesen and Rhodes.
Down to the final 30 laps of the event, Zane Smith was leading by more than two seconds over Nemechek while Eckes, Majeski and Chandler Smith, who rallied from losing a lap to the leaders, were in the top five. Friesen was in sixth ahead of Heim, Rhodes, Kraus and Howard.
Shortly after, Heim’s strong run was spoiled after he made contact with the outside wall in Turn 1 and made a trip to pit road, thus losing a lap to the leaders.
With 20 laps remaining, Zane Smith continued to extend his advantage to more than four seconds over Nemechek while Majeski, Chandler Smith and Eckes were in the top five.
Just then, the caution flew with 13 laps remaining when Dean Thompson spun in Turn 2. The incident all but evaporated Zane Smith’s advantage of more than six seconds over Nemechek and the field.
Under caution, some like DiBenedetto, Lawless Alan, Ankrum and Colby Howard pitted while the rest led by Zane Smith remained on the track.
Down to the final eight laps of the event, the race proceeded under green. At the start, Zane Smith rocketed with the lead while Nemechek, who struggled at the start on the outside lane, slipped out of the top five as Majeski moved into the runner-up spot.
When the field returned to the start/finish line, Zane Smith was leading ahead of Majeski, Enfinger, Eckes and Chandler Smith while Nemechek was mired back in sixth place.
With less than five laps remaining, Zane Smith stabilized his advantage to nearly seven-tenths of a second over runner-up Majeski and more than two seconds over third-place Enfinger.
When the white flag waved and the final lap started, Zane Smith continued to lead by more than a second over Majeski. Having no competition coming close to his fast truck, Smith cycled his way back to the finish line as he capped off a dominant run with another victory of the season.
With his third victory of the season, all occurring in his first campaign with Front Row Motorsports, Smith also claimed his first win at Kansas and his sixth career victory in the Truck circuit.
“Just an unbelievable truck,” Smith said on FS1. “We, honestly, struggled there in the first stage. I feel like I made the mistake last week with adjusting too much in the heat of the day and wasn’t right in the night [conditions]. We just executed greatly with this truck. This was our Vegas truck. I feel like this would’ve been an image of Vegas what we’ve seen tonight if I didn’t get damage early in the race there. What a track record with Speedco and Love’s [Travel Stops]. Just so cool. That was one of my easier ones I’ve ever had to win, but that late-race restart scared me a little, but good thing I didn’t have another one there because I am stuck in fourth [gear].”
Finishing in a career-best runner-up spot was Ty Majeski, who also achieved his third top-five result of the season as he is currently campaigning in his first full-time season in the series with ThorSport Racing. Majeski’s second-place run occurred in his 28th series start.
“We were really close,” Majeski said. “We kept easing on the adjustments all night. Getting the balance better every run. Track was freeing up and we were just a little bit too free. We kept making small changes. The sun went down, I think we under-adjusted a little bit for that last stop. Just couldn’t attack it. Just a little bit too free. Overall, a really, really fast American Racing Toyota Tundra TRD Pro. We’ve been really hitting it off this year. It’s been a ton of fun. Being in the shop every day with these guys and working with them. We have a great relationship and there’s a lot of great things coming. We’re right there.”
The third-place result was the second in a row in recent weeks for Enfinger, who is currently competing on a full-time basis with GMS Racing.
“[Crew chief] Charles [Denike], tonight, made some really good calls ‘cause we were terrible when we unloaded, terrible in qualifying,” Enfinger said. “I could drive it at the beginning of the race, but we were slow. [Denike] did a great job adjusting on it all night. I feel like he hit on something. The last two adjustments made a big difference.”
Chandler Smith came home in fourth place and Eckes completed the top five while Nemechek, who led the first three laps and who was coming off a win last weekend at Darlington Raceway, fell back to sixth place.
“[I] Spun the tires, didn’t get a good push from behind,” Nemechek said. “It’s on me. I spun the tires and that was pretty much it. That’s all she wrote. [I] Had a decently fast Mobil 1 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro tonight. We missed it. [Zane Smith] was definitely the dominant truck and he should’ve won the race. I feel like we should’ve finished second or third, but got to work on restarts, come back and we know what we need to do here coming back for the Playoff race. Proud of the guys. Proud of the effort. Still on a top-six streak here. Just got to continue on.”
Matt DiBenedetto, Kraus, Crafton and Rhodes finished in the top 10.
There were nine lead changes for five different leaders. The race featured four cautions for nine laps.
With the first half of the 2022 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series regular-season stretch complete, Ben Rhodes leads the regular-season standings by 20 points over John Hunter Nemechek and 21 over Zane Smith. Currently, Zane Smith, Rhodes, Nemechek and Chandler Smith are tentatively locked into the 2022 Truck Playoffs based on winning at least once throughout the season while Ty Majeski, Stewart Friesen, Carson Hocevar, Christian Eckes, Grant Enfinger and Matt Crafton are above the top-10 cutline based on points. Tanner Gray trails the top-10 cutline by 20 points, Derek Kraus trails by 37, Tyler Ankrum trails by 45, and Matt DiBenedetto trails by 66.
1. Zane Smith, 108 laps led, Stage 2 winner
2. Ty Majeski, one lap led
3. Grant Enfinger
4. Chandler Smith
5. Christian Eckes
6. John Hunter Nemechek, three laps led
7. Matt DiBenedetto
8. Derek Kraus
9. Matt Crafton
10. Ben Rhodes, four laps led
11. Colby Howard
12. Riley Herbst
13. Chase Purdy
14. Stewart Friesen
15. Carson Hocevar
16. Tyler Ankrum
17. Hailie Deegan
18. Tanner Gray
19. Lawless Alan
20. Tate Fogleman, one lap down
21. Tyler Hill, one lap down
22. Dean Thompson, one lap down
23. Austin Wayne Self, one lap down
24. Jesse Little, two laps down
25. Kris Wright, two laps down
26. Jack Wood, three laps down
27. Timmy Hill, four laps down
28. Ryan Huff, four laps down
29. Trey Hutchens, four laps down
30. Josh Reaume, five laps down
31. Spencer Boyd, seven laps down
32. Blaine Perkins, eight laps down
33. Corey Heim, 10 laps down, 18 laps led, Stage 1 winner
34. Matt Mills – OUT, Axle
35. Jesse Iwuji – OUT, Too slow
Next on the 2022 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series schedule is the series’ lone visit of the season at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas, which will occur on Friday, May 20, at 8:30 p.m. ET on FS1.