After losing the lead to Ryan Preece with less than 20 laps remaining, Chandler Smith executed a restart with 14 laps remaining and a draft from teammate Corey Heim to his advantage as he reassumed the lead and fended off Preece to win the CRC Brakleen 150 at Pocono Raceway on Saturday, July 23.
The 20-year-old Smith from Talking Rock, Georgia, led three times for a race-high 49 of 60-scheduled laps as he capped off the 2022 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series regular season stretch with his second victory of the season and added momentum in his pursuit for his first NASCAR national touring series championship.
With on-track qualifying that was set for Friday canceled due to rain, the starting lineup was determined through a qualifying metric from NASCAR’s rulebook. As a result, Zane Smith, the regular-season points leader, started on pole position while Chandler Smith joined Smith on the front row.
Prior to the event, Josh Reaume dropped to the rear of the field due to unapproved adjustments made to his truck.
When the green flag waved and the race started, Zane Smith and Chandler Smith dueled for the top spot entering the first turn as Chandler Smith used the inside lane to rocket his No. 18 Charge Me Toyota Tundra TRD Pro to the lead. Through the Long Pond straightaway, Zane Smith settled in the runner-up spot behind Chandler Smith while Carson Hocevar was in third ahead of Stewart Friesen, Christian Eckes, Derek Kraus, John Hunter Nemechek and Ty Majeski.
Just as Zane Smith started to challenge Chandler Smith for the lead, the first caution flew when rookie Jack Wood got loose entering the second turn and spun his No. 24 GMS Racing Chevrolet Silverado RST, though he was dodged by the oncoming field.
As the event restarted on the fourth lap, the field fanned out to multiple lanes entering the first turn as Chandler Smith retained the lead ahead of Zane Smith’s No. 38 Fr8 Auctions Ford F-150 while Hocevar and Eckes battled for third ahead of Kraus, Friesen and Nemechek.
Two laps later, the caution returned when Dean Thompson spun his No. 40 Worldwide Express Chevrolet Silverado RST in Turn 1. During the caution period, some like Ty Majeski and Grant Enfinger, who was encountering radio issues to his No. 23 Champion Power Equipment Chevrolet Silverado RSt, pitted while the rest led by Chandler Smith remained on the track.
With five laps remaining in the first stage, the event proceeded under green. At the start, Chandler Smith took off with the lead on the outside lane while Eckes rocketed his No. 98 Cub Records Toyota Tundra TRD Pro into the runner-up spot. Behind, Hocevar fended off Nemechek for third place before Zane Smith and Friesen took Nemechek three-wide past the Tunnel Curve for spots in the top five.
As the on-track battles continued through the frontstretch and around the Tricky Triangle, the caution returned during the following lap when Todd Bodine, who was making his 800th NASCAR national touring series career start, got pinched in between Hailie Deegan and Blaine Perkins entering the first turn. The contact sent Bodine’s No. 62 Camping World Toyota Tundra TRD Pro around and into the outside wall as Jack Wood and Tyler Hill piled into Bodine’s Toyota. The wreck and damage were enough to conclude Bodine’s historic NASCAR career in the garage.
The wreck involving Bodine was enough for the first stage scheduled for Lap 15 to conclude under caution as Chandler Smith captured his second stage victory of the season. Eckes settled in second followed by Hocevar, Friesen, Derek Kraus, Zane Smith, Nemechek, Tyler Ankrum, Matt Crafton and rookie Corey Heim. With his sixth-place result, Zane Smith clinched the 2022 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series regular season championship.
Under the stage break, some led by Kraus and Zane Smith pitted while the rest led by Chandler Smith remained on the track.
The second stage started on Lap 18 as Chandler Smith and Hocevar occupied the front row. At the start and with the field fanning out, Smith retained the lead on the outside lane followed by Eckes and Friesen while Hocevar was being overtaken by Heim, Ankrum, Crafton, Ryan Preece, Matt DiBenedetto and Nemechek, all of whom were running on the outside lane through the Pocono turns.
Through the first 20 scheduled laps, Chandler Smith was leading by eight-tenths of a second over Eckes followed by Friesen, Heim and Ankrum while Preece, Crafton, DiBenedetto, Nemechek and Hocevar were in the top 10. Derek Kraus was back in 11th ahead of Tanner Gray, Majeski, Jesse Little and Grant Enfinger while Colby Howard, Austin Hill, Timmy Hill, Chase Purdy and Blaine Perkins were in the top 20. Meanwhile, names like Zane Smith, Ben Rhodes and Hailie Deegan were mired outside of the top 20.
By Lap 25, Chandler Smith extended his advantage to more than two seconds over Eckes. Meanwhile, Heim moved his No. 51 JBL Toyota Tundra TRD Pro into third place while Friesen and Preece were scored in the top five. Crafton and Enfinger, both of whom occupied the final two spots to the Playoffs, were in seventh and 19th while Ankrum and Kraus, the first two competitors scored outside of the top-10 cutline, were in sixth and 11th.
A few laps later, names like Heim, Friesen, Preece, Hocevar, Kraus, Austin Hill, DiBenedetto and Tanner Gray pitted under green. By Lap 28, Chandler Smith surrendered the lead to pit for four fresh tires and fuel while Eckes cycled to the lead.
When the second stage concluded on Lap 30, Eckes captured his first stage victory of the season. Ankrum settled in second following a side-by-side battle between Crafton and Nemechek. Majeski, Colby Howard, Chase Purdy, Zane Smith, Jesse Little and Enfinger were scored in the top 10.
Under the stage break, some led by Eckes pitted while the rest led by Chandler Smith remained on the track.
With 25 laps remaining, the final stage started under green as Chandler Smith and Ryan Preece occupied the front row. At the start, Chandler Smith retained the lead on the outside lane followed by Preece, Heim, Hocevar, Hill and Kraus as the field fanned out through the Long Pond straightaway.
Down to the final 20 laps of the event, Chandler Smith was leading by four-tenths of a second over Preece while Heim, Hocevar and Austin Hill retained their spots in the top five. Kraus was in sixth ahead of Nemechek, DiBenedetto, Eckes and Ankrum while Crafton and Enfinger were in 13th and 17th.
Shortly after, the battle for the lead ignited as Preece, who was dealing with a left-rear tire rub, dueled and overtook Chandler Smith for the top spot in Turn 1. Just as the battle between Preece and Smith continued, the caution returned with 18 laps remaining when Spencer Boyd spun from Turn 3 to the frontstretch as he also dropped debris on the frontstretch. During the caution period, Zane Smith pitted to fix a throttle issue along with Rhodes, who opted for fresh tires, while the rest led by Preece remained on the track.
With 14 laps remaining, the event proceeded under green. At the start, Heim pushed teammate Chandler Smith back to the lead while Preece fell back to second. Meanwhile, Hocevar overtook Heim for third place as Nemechek joined the battle followed by Austin Hill, Kraus and Majeski.
Two laps later, Kraus, who was running in seventh place, started to have smoke come out of the left-front fender of his No. 19 NAPA Chevrolet Silverado RST as he reported a power steering failure to his truck. Despite the issue, he continued on the track and the event remained under green.
Down to the final 10 laps of the event, Chandler Smith continued to lead by half a second over Preece’s No. 17 RaceChoice.com Ford F-150 followed by Heim, Hocevar and Nemechek while Austin Hill, Eckes, Kraus, Majeski and Tanner Gray were in the top 10. By then, Crafton was in 13th, Zane Smith recovered to 15th ahead of Ankrum and Enfinger was back in 18th behind Colby Howard.
With five laps remaining, the top-six competitors were separated by less than two seconds as Chandler Smith remained as the leader by four-tenths of a second over Preece and seven-tenths of a second over teammate Heim. Behind, Hocevar, Nemechek and Hill engaged in a three-truck battle for fourth place while Kraus, Tanner Gray, DiBenedetto, Zane Smith, Crafton, Ankrum and Enfinger were in ninth, 10th, 12th, 13th, 15th, 16th and 17th, respectively.
When the white flag waved and the final lap started, Chandler Smith was leading by two-tenths of a second over Preece. While Preece kept Smith close to his front windshield, he could not gain any late momentum through the Trick Triangle’s turns as Smith managed to cycle his way back to the frontstretch and claim his second checkered flag of the season by more than two-tenths of a second.
With the victory, Smith recorded his fourth Camping World Truck Series career victory, his first at Pocono and his first win since winning at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March. He also recorded the seventh Pocono victory for Kyle Busch Motorsports. By collecting his second checkered flag of the season along with two stage victories throughout the regular season stretch, Smith and his No. 18 KBM Toyota team led by former championship-winning crew chief Danny Stockman Jr. will commence the 2022 Playoffs in second place in the Playoff standings with 2,022 behind Zane Smith, who holds 2,037 with his regular-season title.
“God’s good,” Smith said on FOX. “We’ve been going through a little bit of a struggle here recently, but just when we needed to shine, we started shining. I can’t thank [Kyle Busch Motorsports]. This Charge Me Toyota Tundra was fast today. It was really good. It was a little tight. [I] Had problems getting through the gears. Also, thank you to the No. 51 team. Just can’t thank the good Lord. This is awesome! [The victory is] Big because we didn’t have a lot of Playoff points going into the Playoffs and today, we got one stage win, won the race, so I think we’re gonna be looking pretty sharp going to [Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park].”
Preece, who made his seventh Truck start of the season and won in his latest series start at Nashville Superspeedway in June, settled in the runner-up spot while Nemechek, Heim and Hocevar finished in the top five. Completing the top 10 were Austin Hill, Majeski, Eckes, Kraus and Tanner Gray.
With their finishes of 15th and 17th, Matt Crafton and Grant Enfinger secured the final two spots to the 2022 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs. Kraus, who finished ninth, was the first competitor to miss the top-10 cutline to the Playoffs by 17 points.
“After a day like today, it’s a little bit frustrating,” Enfinger said. “First and foremost, got to say thank you to everybody that stuck behind us. Everybody at GMS Fabrication. They built a brand new truck for here. We never were able to see what it did, so everything that happened to us today was on us. We’re gonna take it back, we’re gonna learn from it. We’re not gonna get down. The good thing about this regular season is it’s over and we made it to the off-season. We’ve learned a lot throughout this year. We’re getting transitioned again. [Crew chief] Jeff Hensley did a great job on the [pit] box, battling through the stuff that was self-inflicted. I’m frustrated right now, but we’re not gonna get down. We’re gonna work hard and be ready for [Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park].”
“We had a very, very good truck,” Crafton said. “It was really good on short run. We had a way better truck than where we finished, but you need to be aggressive on the starts and I couldn’t put myself in any bad situations. You have to put yourself in bad situations on restarts to be able to get the spots. I would have to wait for everything to settle down and then, pass people, earn it instead of being a wild man on restarts. We just had to keep [Kraus] in grasp right there and hopefully, we didn’t get a new winner. [The team] worked really hard.”
“[There were] A couple races that we could’ve improved on where we were better,” Kraus said. “Overall, it’s what happened. I don’t know what happened when the power steering went away. Just parts failure. Just move on, hang our heads high and we’ll go on to the next 10 [Playoff] races.”
Zane Smith, Ben Rhodes, John Hunter Nemechek, Chandler Smith, Stewart Friesen, Ty Majeski, Carson Hocevar, Christian Eckes, Grant Enfinger and Matt Crafton have made the 2022 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs. All 10 competitors will embark on a seven-race postseason stretch and contend for this year’s Truck title.
Derek Kraus, Tyler Ankrum, Matt DiBenedetto, Tanner Gray, Colby Howard, Timmy Hill, Chase Purdy, Lawless Alan, Hailie Deegan, Dean Thompson, Jack Wood, Spencer Boyd, Kris Wright, Blaine Perkins were among the remaining competitors whom did not make the Playoffs.
There were five lead changes for three different leaders. The race featured five cautions for 20 laps.
1. Chandler Smith, 49 laps led, Stage 1 winner
2. Ryan Preece, six laps led
3. John Hunter Nemechek
4. Corey Heim
5. Carson Hocevar
6. Austin Hill
7. Ty Majeski
8. Christian Eckes, five laps led, Stage 2 winner
9. Derek Kraus
10. Tanner Gray
11. Chase Purdy
12. Matt DiBenedetto
13. Zane Smith
14. Stewart Friesen
15. Matt Crafton
16. Tyler Ankrum
17. Grant Enfinger
18. Colby Howard
19. Ben Rhodes
20. Tate Folgeman
21. Max Gutierrez
22. Lawless Alan
23. Kaz Grala
24. Dean Thompson
25. Kaden Honeycutt
26. Jesse Little
27. Kris Wright
28. Timmy Hill
29. Blaine Perkins
30. Tyler Hill
31. Armani Williams, one lap down
32. Spencer Boyd, one lap down
33. Hailie Deegan – OUT, Brakes
34. Josh Reaume, five laps down
35. Jack Wood – OUT, Accident
36. Todd Bodine – OUT, Accident
The 2022 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs is set to commence next Friday, July 29, at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park, which marks the series’ return to the venue since 2011. The event is scheduled to commence at 9 p.m. ET on FS1.