Race Weekend Central

Sammy Smith Leads Career-High Laps at Martinsville, Falls Short of Championship 4

When the NASCAR Xfinity Series rolled into Martinsville Speedway for the Round of 8 finale, most of the focus was on the trio of Cole Custer, Austin Hill and Justin Allgaier.

That was justifiable, as Allgaier edged Sheldon Creed in a tumultuous photo finish brought on by a red flag to set up the overtime restart. Behind them came Sammy Smith in third, two spots short of a championship ticket.

See also
Justin Allgaier Beats Sheldon Creed in Overtime Thriller

However, it was the polesitter who perhaps made the most waves throughout the day. Rookie driver Smith started the must-win weekend on the right foot, capturing his first career pole. But that was only the beginning.

Despite varying strategies throughout the race that saw Allgaier capture the stage one victory, Smith led a career-high 147 laps and won stage two as he looked poised to steal the win, joining teammate John Hunter Nemechek in the Championship 4.

However, the always-looming late-race chaos at Martinsville struck once again, and Smith fell victim to his aggressive peers.

Following a lap 176 caution for Parker Kligerman, Smith decided to pit and take advantage of four fresh tires. Despite short runs seemingly helping, it ultimately hurt his day due to the aggressive nature of the restarts.

“We had a fast car, just typical restarts,” Smith told Frontstretch after the race. “Just move on to Phoenix [Raceway].

The teammate he sought to join in the championship race ultimately angered Smith on the final restart when Nemechek threw a late block on Smith entering turn one. An unhappy Smith aired his frustration when both reviewing this race and previewing the season finale.

“I definitely don’t have a teammate next Saturday at all.”

Smith will be moving to JR Motorsports in 2024.

It’s a tough result for the 19-year-old. He was the spring winner at Phoenix – the site of the championship race that may have allowed him to sneak into the title race and pull off the triumph.

Instead, he leaves Martinsville with strong feelings, an oh-so-close result, and a new outlook for 2024.

About the author

Luken Glover arrived on the Frontstretch scene in 2020. He has been an avid NASCAR fan for the majority of his life, following in the footsteps of his grandfather, who used to help former team owner Junie Donlavey in his garage. Glover covers news for the site and took over "The Underdog House" column in 2021. In addition to being a college junior, his hobbies include volunteering at church, playing basketball and tennis, racing go-karts, and helping at his high school alma mater.

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