Chandler Smith earns first NASCAR Xfinity Series win
By HANK KURZ Jr.
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) Chandler Smith outran John Hunter Nemechek out of a restart with six laps to go Saturday at Richmond Raceway to win for the first time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
Nemechek chose the inside lane on a restart with 12 laps left, relegating Smith to the outside. When another caution came for a crash at the back of the field, Smith had taken the lead and chose the outside for the sprint to the finish.
Smith won in just his 10th career start in the series. Nemechek was second, followed by Josh Berry, Kaz Grala and Cole Custer.
“It feels great,” Smith said. “Here we are at Richmond, my favorite race track, and we're sitting in victory lane. This is unbelievable.”
Nemechek raced side-by-side with Smith for the first few laps after the final green flag, but figured he was the underdog by the finish.
“We were a long-run speed car,” he said. "(Smith) had the best car on the short run. It was going to be hard to hold him off."
Justin Allgaier, one of four drivers contending for the Dash 4 Cash $100,000 bonus, gambled by stopping under green for his last set of tires with about 40 laps to and was cruising through the field.
But when another caution came with 28 to go, the rest of the leaders pitted, leaving him on older tires and basically defenseless. The other bonus contenders - Sammy Smith, Daniel Hemric and Sam Mayer - had more difficult days and Allgaier won despite finishing 13th.
“It's weird to be finishing 13th and still standing here holding this check," Allgaier said. “It was like none of us wanted to win it.”
Mayer finished 17th, Sammy Smith 19th and Hemric 24th.
The race, delayed nearly an hour at the start after periodic morning rain, was run without practice or qualifying, started nearly an hour late under cloudy skies and finished in sunshine.
The finish was harsh for Riley Herbst and Brandon Jones, who were both running in the top five and had been up front all day until they crashed with 20 laps to go. Jones wound up 21st, Herbst 23rd.
When the competition caution flag flew after 35 laps, Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Nemechek and Sammy Smith opted to stay on the track while everyone else got fresh tires. It backfired for Smith.
Smith led one lap under caution, but was running seventh by the time the first green-flag lap was complete. Nemechek dropped back faster and was 32nd when the stage ended with Smith 33rd, a lap down.
While Nemechek was seventh at the end of the 75-lap second stage and nearly won, Smith never found his way near the front and finished 19th.
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Updated April 1, 2023