NASCAR TRUCKS: Chandler Smith wins at Pocono

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Jul. 24—LONG POND — Chandler Smith continued Kyle Busch Motorsports' dominance

at Pocono Raceway in the

NASCAR Trucks Series.

Smith led 49 of 60 laps and held off Ryan Preece to take the checkered flag in the 13th annual CRC Brakleen 150 on Saturday afternoon.

It is his second win of the season in the No. 18 Toyota — he also was victorious at Las Vegas in the second race in March — and fourth Trucks win in 54 career starts.

Teammates John Hunter Nemechek and Corey Heim finished third and fourth, respectively, marking another strong showing at Pocono by KBM. The organization has won seven of the last eight races at the 2.5-mile track: Kyle Busch (2015, 2018); William Byron (2016); Christopher Bell (2017); Brandon Jones (2020); Nemechek (2021); and now Smith.

"The guys have worked hard and certainly done a great job the last few years," Busch said. "I remember coming here the first time. We had Kasey Kahne (as driver) and finished second to Kevin Harvick (driver Elliott Sadler) and then came here the next year and finished second again to KHI. So the press was on to get better at Pocono and certainly we've done that.

"Nice to continue the strong effort here. Good to see the 51 (Heim) and the 4 (Nemechek) get finishes that were solid and of course Chandler to be able to get to Victory Lane. It was a good day."

Zane Smith, Grant Enfinger and Matt Crafton also were winners.

Saturday's race was the finale before the start of the series playoffs over the final seven races. Zane Smith finished 13th and clinched the regular-season points title. Enfinger placed 17th and Crafton 15th to secure the last two available playoff berths.

"We had a lot better truck than where we ended up today," Crafton said. "I couldn't be as aggressive as I needed to be. I had to be super-ultra cautious. I couldn't throw caution to the wind because I couldn't take that chance. All it took was one deal where somebody got loose under me and took me out. I had to be really, really patient."

Enfinger overcame a radio issue at the start of the race among other things.

"It was a really tough day. We had a lot of bad circumstances happen that were all within our control," Enfinger said. "That's the frustrating part. But it's also a blessing that the regular season is over and we managed to scratch and claw our way through it. It hasn't been pretty; today was kind of a testament to our season. I'm so thankful we can hit the reset button and live to fight next week."

The 10-driver playoff field is Zane Smith, Chandler Smith, Ben Rhodes, Nemechek, Stewart Friesen, Christian Eckes, Ty Majeski, Carson Hocevar, Enfinger and Crafton. The Trucks postseason begins Friday at Indianapolis Raceway Park.

Starting second Saturday, Chandler Smith grabbed the lead when the green flag dropped and stayed there for the first 27 laps, winning Stage 1 in the process.

Pitting before the end of Stage 2, he pitted on Lap 29 but cycled back to the front on Lap 33 and stayed there for the next eight laps.

Just before the fifth caution of the race happened for debris on Lap 41, Preece was able to pass Chandler Smith for the lead.

But when the race restarted on Lap 47, Chandler Smith got around Preece to take back the lead.

"I was dominating the race. Never really got in dirty air all day, so I really didn't know what our truck was going to do when it got in dirty air," Chandler Smith said. "So when he got by me, we took a huge hit. Our truck was not that great.

"Luckily a restart came. All three KBM trucks were lined up on the inside lane. Corey gave me a really good push, the 4 (Nemechek) gave him a really good push and ultimately that's what led to us getting the victory."

In the closing laps, Preece made several attempts to pass Chandler Smith, but was unable and wound up finishing 0.262 seconds behind when the checkered flag flew.

"I was just too tight," Preece said. "Trying to pass him, the nose was chattering real bad. As a race car driver, when I'm tight my toolbox isn't very full. When I'm loose, there's a lot of things I can do to make that pass. So my hands were somewhat tied and we just had to maximize our day.

"When we were able to get to his outside, I was able to pull that one (pass) on him, that was our one and only chance. When I tried to do it again, I couldn't accumulate enough of a run."

Last year, Chandler Smith qualified for the playoffs, but wound up finishing eighth. He did have two wins — at Bristol and the season finale at Phoenix.

"We're going into the playoffs (this year) with a lot of momentum," Chandler Smith said. "I think that's on our side, that's for sure."

Todd Bodine's milestone 800th career NASCAR start was shortlived. On Lap 12, he appeared to get squeezed by Hailie Deegan entering Turn 1. His truck spun and hit the outside wall, collecting Tyler Hill and Jack Wood in the process.

Bodine finished 36th. Still, he became the 28th driver in NASCAR history to make 800 starts across all three national series.

Contact the writer:

swalsh@timesshamrock.com;

570-348-9100, ext. 5109;

@swalshTT on Twitter