Nearly a month after having a victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway within his grasp slip out of reach in the final laps, rookie Chandler Smith redeemed himself through a late shootout to claim his first NASCAR Xfinity Series career win in the ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond Raceway on Saturday, April 1.
The 20-year-old Smith from Talking Rock, Georgia, led three times for a race-high 83 of 250-scheduled laps as he spent a majority of the event running towards the front. After claiming the lead from John Hunter Nemechek during a restart with 12 laps remaining prior to a late caution, Smith then used the outside lane during the final restart with six laps remaining to duel and fend off Nemechek before pulling away and retaining the top spot to claim his first checkered flag in the series.
With on-track qualifying that was scheduled to occur on Saturday canceled due to inclement weather, the starting lineup for the main event was determined through a qualifying metric system from NASCAR’s rulebook qualifying procedure. Based on the metric system, Justin Allgaier was awarded the pole position and was joined on the front row by rookie Sammy Smith.
Prior to the event, Parker Kligerman dropped to the rear of the field due to unapproved adjustments made to his No. 48 Big Machine Racing entry.
When the green flag waved and the race commenced amid a delay spanning more than half an hour due to inclement weather, Allgaier jumped ahead with the lead on the inside lane as he managed to clear Sammy Smith and proceed to lead the first lap. Behind, teammate Sam Mayer launched an early challenge on Smith for second ahead of Riley Herbst, Daniel Hemric and Sheldon Creed while the field behind jostled for positions.
Two laps later, Sammy Smith overtook Allgaier with a strong launch entering Turn 3. A lap later, Mayer would overtake teammate Allgaier on the outside lane through the frontstretch to claim second place as Hemric and Herbst closed in on the battle.
During the fifth lap, early troubles ignited for Joe Graf Jr., who went dead straight into the Turn 2 outside wall due to a left-front tire while running inside the top 20. He was, however, able to make a pit stop without drawing a caution.
With the event surpassing the first 10-scheduled laps, Sammy Smith was leading by a second over Hemric followed by Mayer, John Hunter Nemechek, and Allgaier while rookie Chandler Smith, Herbst, Josh Berry, Sheldon Creed and newcomer Derek Kraus were in the top 10. Meanwhile, Anthony Alfredo was in 11th ahead of Brandon Jones, Cole Custer, Jeremy Clements and Ryan Sieg while Jeb Burton, Austin Hill, Kaz Grala, Josh Williams and Brett Moffitt were running in the top 20.
Through the first 20 laps, Sammy Smith continued to lead by more than a second over Hemric while Chandler Smith moved up to third ahead of Nemechek as Mayer fell back to fifth. Behind, Allgaier was back in sixth ahead of Herbst and Berry while Creed and Kraus occupied the top 10.
When the competition caution flew on Lap 35, Sammy Smith retained the lead over Hemric, Chandler Smith and the rest of the field with 36 of 38 starters scored on the lead lap. During the competition caution, nearly the entire lead lap field led by Hemric pitted while Joe Gibbs Racing’s Sammy Smith and John Hunter Nemechek remained on the track. During the pit stops, Hill was penalized for speeding on pit road. Brennan Poole was also penalized for an uncontrolled tire violation after a tire rolled out of his pit box during his pit stop.
Once the event restarted under green on Lap 42, Sammy Smith jumped ahead with a brief advantage while Chandler Smith, Hemric and Herbst took Nemechek through a four-wide battle entering the first turn as Nemechek struggled to launch on old tires. With Nemechek getting swallowed up by the field and competitors running on fresher tires, Sammy Smith was then quickly challenged for the lead through the backstretch as Herbst muscled his No. 98 Monster Energy Ford Mustang to the lead on the outside lane. Kaulig Racing’s Hemric and Chandler Smith would quickly follow suit for podium spots against Sammy Smith, who was then overtaken by Brandon Jones, Creed and Custer as he returned to the frontstretch and continued to lose spots. As the field behind continued to scramble for positions during the following lap, Herbst was overtaken by Chandler Smith during the following lap with the latter clearing the field and slowly pulling away.
At the Lap 50 mark, Chandler Smith was leading by six-tenths of a second over Herbst followed by Hemric, Brandon Jones and Creed while Berry and Cole Custer duked for sixth. Allgaier was in eighth ahead of teammate Mayer, Kaz Grala, Kligerman and Ryan Sieg while Sammy Smith and Nemechek plummeted all the way back to 30th and 32nd while running on older tires compared to the field.
Fifteen laps later, Chandler Smith continued to lead by three-tenths of a second over Herbst while Jones, Berry and Hemric occupied the top five. By then, teammates Nemechek and Sammy Smith were mired in 32nd and 34th, respectively, towards the rear end of the lead lap field as the leaders started to close in to lap them.
When the first stage concluded on Lap 75, Chandler Smith claimed his first stage victory of the 2023 Xfinity season. Herbst settled in a close second followed by Brandon Jones while Berry, Custer, Hemric, Allgaier, Creed, Ryan Sieg and Mayer were scored in the top 10. By then, Nemechek and Sammy Smith were lapped by the leaders. By being scored the first competitor a lap down, however, Nemechek was the recipient of the free pass while Smith remained pinned a lap down.
Under the stage break, the lead lap field led by Chandler Smith returned to pit road for service. Following the pit stops, Herbst exited first followed by Jones, Chandler Smith, Custer and Hemric. During the pit stops, Mayer endured a long pit stop and lost a lap after running in the top 10 while Ryan Sieg was penalized for having too many men over the pit wall.
The second stage started on Lap 84 as Herbst and Jones occupied the front row. At the start, Herbst launched ahead to retain the lead while Chandler Smith battled Jones for second as the field behind jostled for positions. With Herbst keeping his No. 98 entry in front of a side-by-side battle between Chandler Smith’s No. 16 Kaulig Racing entry and Jones’ No. 9 JR Motorsports entry, Custer followed suit in fourth while Berry was up in fifth.
At the Lap 100 mark, Herbst was leading by two-tenths of a second over Chandler Smith followed by Jones, Custer and Berry while Allgaier, Parker Kligerman, Creed, Kraus and Hemric were running in the top 10. Behind, Hill was in 11th ahead of Kaz Grala, Clements, Nemechek and Jeffrey Earnhardt while Ryan Ellis, Brett Moffitt, Alex Labe, Chris Hacker and Jeb Burton occupied the top 20.
Five laps later, Chandler Smith reassumed the lead over Herbst, who had to check up as Joe Graf Jr. endured more on-track issues by slipping sideways on the backstretch. Jones would eventually make his way into second place over Herbst while Custer was locked in a battle with Berry for fourth.
At the halfway mark on Lap 125, Chandler Smith was leading by nine-tenths of a second over Jones followed by Herbst, Berry and Custer while Kligerman, Allgaier, Kraus, Nemechek and Hill were in the top 10. By then, 27 of 38 starters were scored on the lead lap, none of which included Sammy Smith and Mayer.
Fifteen laps later, Chandler Smith continued to lead ahead of Berry as Jones and Herbst fell back to third and fourth. Custer occupied fifth while Allgaier was the highest-running Dash 4 Cash competitor in eighth. By then, Hemric was lapped by the field.
Another lap later, Berry navigated his No. 8 Jarrett Companies Chevrolet Camaro into the lead with the leaders lapping the benchmarkers. Teammate Jones followed suit in second as Chandler Smith fell back to third. By then, Anthony Alfredo had scrubbed the Turn 2 outside wall with a flat right-front tire, but the event remained under green flag conditions.
When the second stage concluded on Lap 150, Berry claimed his first stage victory of the 2023 Xfinity season. Teammate Jones settled in second followed by Herbst, Chandler Smith and Custer while Grala, Nemechek, Kligerman, Allgaier and Creed were scored in the top 10. By then, 18 of 38 starters were scored on the lead lap.
Under the stage break, the lead lap field led by Berry pitted and Berry retained the lead after exiting first followed by teammate Jones, Herbst, Chandler Smith, Custer and Nemechek.
With 89 laps remaining, the final stage started as teammates Berry and Jones occupied the front row. At the start, Berry retained the lead in front of Jones and Herbst while Chandler Smith launched his bid for the lead while running in fourth. During the following lap, Jones muscled his No. 9 Menards Chevrolet Camaro into the lead while Chandler Smith battled Berry for second. Behind, Nemechek and Herbst battled for fourth in front of Custer and Allgaier as the field jostled for late positions.
Fourteen laps later and with 75 laps remaining, Jones was leading by two-tenths of a second over Chandler Smith followed by Berry, Nemchek and Allgaier while Custer, Herbst, Grala, Creed and Hill battled within the top 10. By then, 19 of 38 starters were scored on the lead lap while names like Sammy Smith, Ryan Sieg, Moffitt, Hemric, Mayer and Connor Mosack were off the lead lap category.
Another nine laps later, Berry battled and overtook teammate Jones to reassume the lead lap. With Berry slowly pulling away, Nemechek, who rallied from losing a lap during the first stage, started to challenge Jones for second while Chandler Smith fell back to fourth in front of Allgaier and Herbst.
With 50 laps remaining, Berry was leading by six-tenths of a second over Nemechek while third-place Jones trailed by more than two seconds. Chandler Smith and Custer remained in the top five while Herbst, Allgaier, Hill, Grala and Creed were back in the top 10.
Nearly 10 laps later, Allgaier, who was running inside the top 10, pitted under green for four fresh tires as Berry maintained his advantage over Nemechek. With 30 laps remaining, however, the caution flew due to Clements coming to a stop on pit road. By then, 13 of 38 starters were scored on the lead lap while a multitude of names, among which included all four Dash 4 Cash competitors Allgaier, Sammy Smith, Mayer and Hemric were pinned at least a lap behind. In addition, Berry retained the lead in front of Nemechek, Jones, Chandler Smith and Herbst.
During the caution period, the field led by Berry pitted and Berry retained the lead after exiting with the lead followed by Nemechek, Jones, Chandler Smith and Herbst.
Down to the final 22 laps of the event, the race restarted under green. At the start, Berry and Nemechek battled for the lead as Nemechek managed to muscle ahead on the outside lane and retain the lead through the frontstretch. With 20 laps remaining, however, the caution returned when Jones made contact with Herbst as Herbst backed his car into the outside wall as Jones slipped sideways and spun backward while getting hit by Custer’s No. 00 Haas Ford Mustang and barely by Connor Mosack’s No. 24 Sam Hunt Racing Toyota Supra. At the moment of caution, Chandler Smith cycled into second over Berry while Mayer was the recipient of the free pass after being scored the first competitor a lap down in front of Hemric and Sammy Smith.
During the following restart with 12 laps remaining, Nemechek retained the lead amid a side-by-side battle with Chandler Smith before the latter managed to move back into the lead. The caution returned shortly after, however, when Moffitt spun in Turn 3 as Leland Honeyman and Graf also spun to avoid hitting Moffitt. At the moment of caution, Sammy Smith received the free pass to cycle back on the lead lap.
With six laps remaining, the event proceeded under green. At the start, Chandler Smith and Nemechek dueled for the lead through the first two turns and the backstretch until Smith managed to move into the lead through Turns 3 and 4. During the following lap, Nemechek drew himself back alongside Smith’s No. 16 entry for the lead as both continued to battle through two tight lanes. Smith, however, would pull away through Turns 3 and 4 while Nemechek settled in second in front of Berry. Then with four laps remaining, Nemechek launched a final bid beneath Chandler Smith, but the latter pulled away with a clear racetrack in front of him and behind him. As the laps continued to dwindle, Chandler Smith retained a narrow advantage ahead of Nemechek and Berry.
When the white flag waved and the final lap started, Chandler Smith remained as the leader ahead of Nemechek and Berry. With Nemechek unable to close the gap despite launching a final overtake bid on the outside lane entering Turn 3, Smith was able to navigate his way around the short track circuit for a final time and claim the checkered flag by more than two-tenths of a second for his first series career victory.
With the victory, Chandler Smith became the 173rd different competitor to win in the Xfinity circuit and the fifth overall to win for Kaulig Racing. He also became the second first-time winner of the 2023 Xfinity circuit and the fifth different competitor to win through the first seven events on the 2023 Xfinity schedule.
“[The win] Feels great,” Smith said on FS1. “This goes to testimony just to Vegas. Dominated that race, didn’t win. I said it was all in God’s timing. He’s in something creating way bigger better something than I know to do it. Here we are at Richmond, my favorite racetrack and we’re sitting in Victory Lane. All glory goes to God. Thank you, [owner] Chris Rice, [team president] Matt Kaulig, Quick Tie Products, everybody at Kaulig Racing, [crew chief] Bruce [Schlicker]. This is unbelievable.”
Nemechek rallied from nearly losing a lap during the first stage to settle in second place for his third top-five result of the season and at Richmond for a second consecutive season while Berry ended up third after leading 63 laps.
“We weren’t very good on the short run,” Nemechek said. “We had a long-run speed car. [I] Came from the back up there to battle for the win, put ourselves in position. Disappointed to run runner-up again. That’s the last three races here I’ve run second, so frustrating, but we’ll go back to work. We just got to figure out how to execute a little bit better. Just one of those days, but good run.”
Grala and Custer claimed top-five finishes in fourth and fifth while Creed, Ryan Sieg, Kligerman, Hill and newcomer Derek Kraus finished in the top 10.
Meanwhile, Allgaier was the winner of the first Dash 4 Cash initiative despite finishing in 13th place, which was enough for him to claim the bonus ahead of his opponents Mayer, Sammy Smith and Hemric, all of whom finished 17th, 19th and 24th, respectively. The accomplishment marked Allgaier’s first Dash 4 Cash bonus since 2018 and his fourth since 2016. Allgaier along with race winner Chandler Smith, runner-up John Hunter Nemechek and third-place finisher Josh Berry will contend for the second Dash 4 Cash bonus that will occur two weeks from now at Martinsville Speedway.
“Weird day today,” Allgaier said. “We didn’t fire off quite as good as we’d hoped, but [the team] kept working. Great pit stops all day. We pitted under green there to go for the win and ultimately, it bit us. Then it was just hanging on. We weren’t really sure what was gonna happen, but luckily, we were able to hold everybody off. It’s weird finishing 13th and still be standing here holding this [Dash 4 Cash] check.”
There were 10 lead changes for seven different leaders. The race featured six cautions for 43 laps.
Following the seventh event of the 2023 Xfinity Series season, Austin Hill leads the regular-season standings by 12 points over Riley Herbst, 18 over John Hunter Nemechek, 24 over Chandler Smith, 43 over Josh Berry and 46 over Justin Allgaier.
1. Chandler Smith, 83 laps led, Stage 1 winner
2. John Hunter Nemechek, 11 laps led
3. Josh Berry, 63 laps led, Stage 2 winner
4. Kaz Grala
5. Cole Custer
6. Sheldon Creed
7. Ryan Sieg
8. Parker Kligerman
9. Austin Hill
10. Derek Kraus
11. Alex Labbe
12. Jeb Burton
13. Justin Allgaier, two laps led
14. Chris Hacker
15. Ryan Ellis
16. Parker Retzlaff
17. Sam Mayer
18. Jeffrey Earnhardt
19. Sammy Smith, 40 laps led
20. Kyle Sieg
21. Brandon Jones, 24 laps led
22. Brett Moffitt
23. Riley Herbst, 27 laps led
24. Daniel Hemric, one lap down
25. Leland Honeyman, one lap down
26. Blaine Perkins, two laps down
27. Joey Gase, two laps down
28. Connor Mosack, two laps down
29. Patrick Emerling, two laps down
30. Garrett Smithley, two laps down
31. Mason Maggio, three laps down
32. Stefan Parsons, three laps down
33. Josh Williams, three laps down
34. Brennan Poole, three laps down
35. Gray Gaulding, five laps down
36. Jeremy Clements, seven laps down
37. Joe Graf Jr., 14 laps down
38. Anthony Alfredo – OUT, Accident
Next on the 2023 NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule is another Virginia event as the series travels southwest from Richmond to Martinsville for its first of two visits to Martinsville Speedway, which will also serve as the site of the second Dash 4 Cash event. The event is scheduled to occur on April 15 at 7:30 p.m. ET on FS1.