Chandler Smith earned his second NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory of the season, taking the trophy in the CRC Brakleen 150 regular season finale at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway Saturday afternoon while another Smith — Zane – coolly collected his first Regular Season Championship.
It marked the seventh race win for a Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) team in the last eight Pocono races with Smith leading a commanding 49 of the 60 laps in the No. 18 KBM Toyota Tundra. The 20-year-old Georgia native had to hold off a final lap charge from Ryan Preece, however, and did so by a close .262-seconds to hoist his fourth career trophy.
“We‘ve been going through a little bit of a struggle here recently, but just when we needed to shine and we started shining,” Chandler Smith said of the victory — his first since a win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March.
Front Row Motorsports driver Zane Smith finished a distant 13th in his No. 38 Ford F-150 dealing with throttle issues early in the race. But with the regular season title in hand, the series-best three-race winner will start the Playoffs with that all-important 15 bonus Playoff points. He‘s hoping to become the first Regular Season Champion to win the season title since 2017.
“Man, today was a major struggle,” Smith said. “Started out from the green flag to pretty much the end of Stage 2 our throttle was sticking and everything we were doing wasn‘t fixing it. So, little worried at times because I knew I just had to have a couple points.
“Long day, once we did get it right still fought a really, really tight truck, but there‘s no giving up,” Smith added. “Glad we‘re on to the Playoffs and ready to get this postseason started.”
The other end of the Playoff drama, veteran Matt Crafton was able to hold onto his 10th and final Playoff transfer position — finishing 15th in the race, but with a 17- point edge on 19-year-old Derek Kraus, who finished ninth. Crafton, a three-time series champion, has now qualified for the series Playoffs every season since its inception into the series in 2016.
“These guys did everything they were supposed to and worked their rear ends off with TRD (Toyota Racing Development) and worked on the simulator, working on getting our set-ups better and we were really good on the short runs, we had a way better truck than where we finished,” Crafton said.
“Take your gloves off and do whatever it takes,” he said of the racing for his fourth title now.
Last year‘s Regular Season Champion John Hunter Nemechek was third, followed by rookie Corey Heim and Carson Hocevar.
Austin Hill, Ty Majeski, Christian Eckes, Kraus and Tanner Gray rounded out the top 10.
Former two-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Todd Bodine finished 36th in his 800th and final NASCAR national series start. He was collected in an accident on Lap 13.
“I‘ve been so blessed to be able to do what I love for 800 times,” said Bodine, who now works as a race broadcaster for FOX Sports. “Pretty blessed life to have.”
As for the early ending, “That‘s racing,” Bodine said managing a smile. “I‘ve been here before. I‘ve been wrecked before. That‘s part of the game.”
After adjusting the standings according to Playoff positions the 10 drivers to advance to the upcoming seven-race Camping World Truck Series Playoffs include (in points order) Zane Smith, Chandler Smith, defending series champion Ben Rhodes, Nemechek, Friesen, Eckes, Majeski, Hocevar, Grant Enfinger and Crafton.
The 2022 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs begin next week with Friday night‘s TSport 200 at Lucas Oil Raceway (9 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
The series last raced at the formerly-named, “Indianapolis Raceway Park” back in 2011 with Timothy Peters winning the race. There are no former winners currently competing fulltime in the series.
— NASCAR Wire Service —