Chandler Smith takes first Xfinity win at Richmond Raceway

Chandler Smith takes first Xfinity win at Richmond Raceway

Rookie Chandler Smith won the ToyotaCare 250 Xfinity race at Richmond Raceway marking his career first race win.

Chandler Smith held off John Hunter Nemechek on the final race restart with six laps remaining to win the ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond Raceway on Saturday. This was the rookie’s maiden NASCAR Xfinity Series victory.

A race-high 83 of the 250 laps were led by Smith’s No. 16 Kaulig Racing Chevy, with the majority of those laps coming early in the race.

However, the 20-year-old Georgia native was able to maintain a position in the top five for the majority of the race and eventually drove his Chevy around Nemechek’s No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota on that final restart, pulling away to a 0.298s victory after an aggressive battle for the lead in the closing laps.

Smith’s lead over the driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota GR Supra has gone up significantly. Although he holds the lead in the race for rookie of the year, there are currently several rookies who have victories, making it impossible for him to claim the title during the regular season.

“Feels great… This goes to testimony as to Vegas, dominated that race but didn’t win and said it was all in God’s timing,” Smith said. “We are in Richmond, my favorite race track, and we’re sitting in victory lane.’’

Smith has three top-five finishes, which includes a painful near-miss in Las Vegas last month. He had to settle for third place after dominating 118 laps at Vegas four races prior and being in ahead with one lap remaining. This makes the young driver’s victory at Richmond all the more inspiring.

Nemechek has finished second three times in a row at the 0.75-mile Richmond track, including the last two NASCAR Xfinity Series races as well as a NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series race.

“We weren’t very good on the short run, we had a long-run speed car… But we came from the back up there to battle for the win, put ourselves in position,” Nemechek said.

“Disappointed to run runner-up again, that’s the last three races I’ve run here finished second… Frustrated, but we’ll go back to work. The No. 16 (Smith) just had the best car on the short run.”

Josh Berry, driving the No. 8 JRM Chevy for JR Motorsports, came in third. He had led 63 laps and was still in the lead with 65 laps left before the race’s defining cautions and restarts.

In the No. 26 Sam Hunt Racing Toyota, Kaz Grala put in a solid performance, finishing in fourth position and matching his highest finish in the Xfinity Series so far.

Cole Custer battled to finish fifth in the No. 00 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford following a hiccup on pit road and some intense side-by-side racing late in the day.

The top 10 was rounded out by Sheldon Creed, Ryan Sieg, Parker Kligerman, Austin Hill, who has won three races of the season and Derek Kraus. Kraus made his debut series start and spent the most of the day racing in the top 10 in his No. 10 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet.

Justin Allgaier began from the front row in his No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevy and led the majority of the laps. This comes after he took the pole after qualifying was postponed due to rain on Saturday morning.

Nevertheless, his day was up and down. He eventually came in at position 13 and did well enough to win the first $100,000 prize in the Xfinity-sponsored Dash 4 Cash sweepstakes.

“Weird day today, we didn’t fire off quite as good as we hoped for but they kept working; great pit stops all day.” Allgaier said.

“It’s weird finishing 13th and still be standing here holding this check but the other guys had a rough day… This puts us in next week for the Dash 4 Cash so huge thanks to Xfinity for all they do for the sport.”

At least three drivers placed in the top 10 were searching for their first Xfinity Series victory for their careers for the most of the race, and seven different drivers led at least 24 laps.

Late in the race, Riley Herbst, who had led for 27 laps, and Brandon Jones, who had led for 24 laps, were both involved in a crash. Jones placed 21st, and Herbst 23rd.

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