Chandler Smith secured the No. 51 team's spot in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series owner's playoffs with his season-best 12th-place finish at Richmond Raceway on Thursday night. After receiving a penalty for running over the choose-lane marking and having to start from the rear of the field at the start of Stage Two, Smith made his way all the way back to 11th by the end of the stage.
He remained 11th when a caution occurred on Lap 175 but moved up to eighth for the ensuing restart on Lap 181 when a handful of trucks pitted. Crew Chief Danny Stockman played the percentages that racing on a short track would lead to a caution over the final 70 laps. Unfortunately, the race went all the way to the end without incident, and the JBL/Smith General Contracting Tundra would end the day one lap down in the 12th spot.
The No. 51 team will enter the owner's playoffs as the ninth seed, three points behind the cutoff line for advancing to the Round of 8 when the playoffs begin next Thursday at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.
Stage One Recap:
- Smith started from the 14th position after a performance matrix based off his finishing position from the previous race, ranking in owner points standings and the ranking of the fastest lap he turned from the previous race at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.
- The 18-year-old driver had fallen back to the 15th position when the first caution of the event occurred on Lap 55. Smith restarted from the 11th position on Lap 61, but as several driver had fresher tires fell back to the 17th to end Stage One on Lap 70.
Stage Two Recap:
- Smith communicated to veteran crew chief Danny Stockman that his Tundra "lacked lateral drive off," before hitting pit road for four fresh tires, a full load of fuel and chassis adjustments.
- The Georgia native would have to start Stage Two from the rear of the field in the 20th position after driving over the choose-lane marking on the track.
- As Stage Two progressed under green-flag conditions, Stockman communicated to his young driver that he was the "fastest truck on the track," and he made his way all the way to the 11th position to complete the segment on Lap 140.
Final Stage Recap:
- Stockman summoned his young driver to pit road for a four-tire and fuel stop between stages. The No. 51 Tundra would start the Final Stage on the bottom of the fifth row.
- A one-truck spin on Lap 175 slowed the field for the fourth time. The field was split on strategy with half the trucks hitting pit road for their final set of Goodyear tires and half staying out believing that there would be another caution sometime over the final 75 laps.
- Smith would restart eight on Lap 181 and immediately began losing spots to drivers with fresher tires. With just over 20 laps remaining the talented teenager was running 11th when he went a lap down to the leader, who pitted during the prior caution.
- The race continued to the end caution free with Smith earning a 12th-place finish, which was a season best.
- The result also secured the No. 51 team's spot in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series owner's playoffs.