Race Weekend Central

Chandler Smith Has ‘Good Disappointment’ with Near Win

If the Alsco Uniforms 300 was two laps shorter, then Chandler Smith would be a NASCAR Xfinity Series winner.

Instead the rookie driver leaves with Las Vegas Motor Speedway with a third-place finish and the thoughts of what could have been.

“It is what it is. I’m really happy with Kaulig Racing,” Smith said. “… I can’t be too disappointed. I mean, it sucks. We just led [118] laps and lost it with two to go.”

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Smith had checked out on the field with over a three-second lead on the final run. But Austin Hill tracked him down in the final 20 laps, passing Smith for the win with two laps to go.

“Some lapped cars were racing us pretty hard when we were lapping them, and I had to use my stuff up a little more than I wanted to,” Smith said. “It showed in those last laps. I started trending tighter, tighter, tighter. And then with about three [laps] to go, I was like, ‘Oh, gosh, we’re going to be in trouble.'”

Smith won the pole for the race, the first of his NXS career. He lost the lead after only 12 laps and finished the first two stages in fourth and sixth. But his No. 16 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet came to life in the final stage of the race.

The Talking Rock, Ga., native led 118 laps in all — he had only led one lap total across his five previous NXS starts. He briefly lost the lead after Hill leapfrogged him on the final pit stops of the day, but Smith quickly retook the lead and gapped Hill again.

But Smith’s big lead was blown, falling to third in the final two laps. Fuel mileage was a question for a lot of teams in the race’s final run. Worrying about it may have ultimately been what handed Smith the defeat.

“Unfortunately, there was one lap where I saved fuel and gave up four tenths, and if I … shoulda, coulda, woulda, right?” Smith said. “You can probably do the math.”

Still, Smith has improved his finish in each of his three starts with Kaulig so far.

“This is what makes me, as an individual, stronger and a better racecar driver is getting experience, building off of it, debriefing what we had, what we can do to make it better,” Smith said. “If we ran like a bag of crap today, I would be a different disappointed, but the disappointed I am right now is a really good disappointed to be.”

With two top fives in the past two races, he now sits fourth in the point standings. The next stop for NXS just so happens to be Phoenix Raceway, one of Smith’s best tracks. In four Craftsman Truck Series starts there, Smith has one win and three third-place finishes.

“We’re going to one of my favorite tracks next weekend, and I know that their [Kaulig’s] stuff was good there last year,” Smith said. “So I’m looking forward to that.”

About the author

Michael Massie is a writer for Frontstretch. Massie, a Richmond, Va. native, has been a NASCAR superfan since childhood, when he frequented races at Richmond International Raceway. Massie is a lover of short track racing and travels around to the ones in his region. Outside of motorsports, the Virginia Tech grad can be seen cheering on his beloved Hokies.

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