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Chandler Smith Captures Much Needed Victory at Phoenix

Chandler Smith

Chandler Smith won the Every Dig. Every Time. 200 at Phoenix. (Photo: Landen Ciardullo | The Podium Finish)

AVONDALE, Ariz. — For the first time in 30 NASCAR XFINITY Series races, Chandler Smith is a winner once again.

In the words of Flo Rida’s “What A Night,” “I came from the bottom, you have no idea, you can’t swipe through my stories (no more), write my name in history.” Smith was almost down toward the end of last year but he has come back to life with his No. 81 QuickTie Toyota Supra entry fielded by Joe Gibbs Racing.

Despite starting from the second position, Smith rocketed to the lead in the first 48 laps, winning Stage 1, netting a Playoff point and 10 valuable stage points. Along the way, trouble found Josh Williams, Dawson Cram, Jeremy Clements and Patrick Emerling in Turn 2 on Lap 5, curtailing the efforts of Emerling in a very short Saturday showing.

Once Stage 2 was underway, Cole Custer, the reigning NASCAR XFINITY Series champion, was like the kid in the classroom who did not share his new gadget with his classmates. Leading wire to wire for this portion of the race, Custer netted the stage victory ahead of Justin Allgaier, Aric Almirola, Smith and Riley Herbst.

Despite the four-car accident in Turn 2 on Lap 5, the Every Dig. Every Time. 200, it was a relatively incident-free race with Smith, Custer and John Hunter Nemechek flexing their muscles as the leaders. Then, on Lap 145, an 11-car pileup in the backstretch ensued when Smith and Nemechek tangled, eliminating Nemechek, Sam Mayer, Parker Retzlaff, Jeb Burton and Hailie Deegan.

Justin Allgaier

It will be a heartbreaking finish that Justin Allgaier will replay until the series’ next visit to Phoenix in November. (Photo: Landen Ciardullo | The Podium Finish)

Suddenly, the tide turned in which Justin Allgaier and his No. 7 BRANDT Chevrolet Camaro, fielded by JR Motorsports, was in prime position for the win. Leading for 52 laps, the Riverton, Illinois, native appeared set to capture a much needed victory for his hardy team.

Any dreams of Victory Lane disappeared with five laps remaining in the race as Allgaier’s left rear tire deflated, sending the perennial championship contender hard into the Turn 1 wall. Instead of snatching a victory heading into the series’ first off weekend of the year, Allgaier finished 29th with a torn up car.

Allgaier’s accident forced the race into Overtime, extending the race for an additional six laps. By this juncture, Smith retook the lead and was as cool as the other side of the pillow in the only Overtime restart.

Even with Jesse Love’s incredible heroics to drive up to second place, Smith defeated the rookie Richard Childress Racing racer by 0.365 seconds, a fitting margin of victory in a Leap Year.

Following the customary burnout to the Phoenix faithful, Smith expressed his gratitude to a deity while empathizing with Allgaier.

Chandler Smith

Very few drivers had answers for Chandler Smith, who led 88 of 205 laps at Phoenix. (Photo: Landen Ciardullo | The Podium Finish)

“First off, all glory to God. Without him, I wouldn’t be where I’m at,” Smith said. “I wouldn’t have a beautiful wife at home with amazing kids he’s blessed us with. They are my everything, my whole world. I can’t wait to get back home to you. I can’t wait to see you tonight. What a day. Went from dominating, to wasn’t great to dominating again to wasn’t great again.

“Just lacked a little bit on the 7 (Justin Allgaier). I hate that happened to him. He definitely had that in the bag, so I definitely hate that for them. Our car was definitely as fast as Xfinity 10G today, and I’m so proud of everyone back at Joe Gibbs Racing. It is good to finally get this first one off my back with these guys, so let’s keep racking them up.”

At last, Love brought home a finish deserving of the effort with his No. 2 Whelen Chevrolet Camaro from the Richard Childress Racing staples. Mainly, he had a “drama free day.”

“We were like a fifth to seventh place car, I felt like, most of the day,” Love said to FOX NASCAR‘s Bob Pockrass. “Obviously, that wreck helped us for sure. I think we made our car a decent bit better. Obviously, the 7 was pretty stout there. I think we just need to get our front end a skosh better in some areas. I just needed a drama free day. I’ve had really fast cars and we’ve been really good with this Whelen group.

“I’ve had so much drama the last few weeks with making some mistakes I shouldn’t make. For me today, it was just about having a drama free day. I think we were able to do that. I tried to just drive 90%, kind of, and not overdo anything. I could’ve picked up more spots on pit road. I could’ve also lost a lot, but I could’ve been more aggressive in certain areas and maybe taken some moves earlier on and get some track position. I just needed to take it easy today.”

Meanwhile, Sheldon Creed captured a third place finish, continuing a very consistent start to the season with his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing team. All things considered, he will take a top five with all that he endured at the 1-mile track.

Sheldon Creed

Although Sheldon Creed came up a few spots short of winning his first race, he has been “Mr. Consistency” as seen at Phoenix. (Photo: Landen Ciardullo | The Podium Finish)

“I tried to get a good restart,” Creed said. “If I could have stayed outside of the 81, that would alright. Restart was okay out of the box, and then I don’t know – the distance, or whatever, I was starting to bleed really bad at the end of that green flag run. Just really struggled with grip there. Needed all four tires to fire there, but a top-five after starting in the back, that’s not something to be too upset about. Just need to be a little better to be able to contend all day.”

Likewise, for Smith, he endured a winless streak that dated to Apr. 1, 2023, at Richmond Raceway. This time, nothing stopped the Talking Rock, Georgia, native from finally capturing his second career victory.

“First win back together. That’s great,” he said. “It has a great ring to it. Our No. 81 Quick Tie Products Toyota GR Supra was definitely as fast as Xfinity Internet today. I needed a little bit there at the end, but I got some good notes to come back with. Hopefully, we can repeat this in the fall when we are running for the championship.”

Stage 1 Top 10 Results
  1. Chandler Smith
  2. Cole Custer
  3. Justin Allgaier
  4. Aric Almirola
  5. Riley Herbst
  6. Brandon Jones
  7. Sam Mayer
  8. Corey Heim (i)
  9. John Hunter Nemechek (i)
  10. Jesse Love (R)
Stage 2 Top 10 Results
  1. Cole Custer
  2. Justin Allgaier
  3. Aric Almirola
  4. Chandler Smith
  5. Riley Herbst
  6. John Hunter Nemechek (i)
  7. Sam Mayer
  8. Jesse Love (R)
  9. Brandon Jones
  10. Austin Hill Every Dig. Every Time 200 at Phoenix Raceway Race Results
Finish Start Car No. Driver Sponsor/Make Status
1 2 81 Chandler Smith QuickTie Toyota Running
2 7 2 Jesse Love (R) Whelen Chevrolet Running
3 6 18 Sheldon Creed Friends of Jaclyn Foundation Toyota Running
4 15 21 Austin Hill Bennett Transportation Chevrolet Running
5 1 00 Cole Custer Haas Automation Ford Running
6 23 97 Shane van Gisbergen (R) Safety Culture Chevrolet Running
7 11 9 Brandon Jones Menards/Little Giant Chevrolet Running
8 12 48 Parker Kligerman Spiked Light Coolers Chevrolet Running
9 16 8 Sammy Smith Pilot Flying J/Marten Chevrolet Running
10 20 5 Anthony Alfredo Dude Wipes Chevrolet Running
11 24 42 Leland Honeyman (R) RANDCO Chevrolet Running
12 13 39 Ryan Sieg Sci Aps Ford Running
13 31 29 Blaine Perkins Ford Running
14 29 78 BJ McLeod BJ McLeod Motorsports Chevrolet Running
15 25 51 Jeremy Clements Wings Etc Grill & Pub Chevrolet Running
16 14 91 Kyle Weatherman Silverton/DriveSmartWarranty Chevrolet Running
17 34 92 Nick Leitz Precision Measurements Inc. Chevrolet Running
18 10 16 AJ Allmendinger Action Industries Chevrolet Running
19 32 14 JJ Yeley SWAMPFOX Tactical Chevrolet Running
20 22 44 Brennan Poole Finance Pros Plus Chevrolet Running
21 30 43 Ryan Ellis Rolling Plains Construction Chevrolet Running
22 3 26 Corey Heim (i) GearWrench Toyota Running
23 28 17 William Byron (i) Chevrolet Running
24 4 98 Riley Herbst Monster Energy Ford Running
25 26 28 Kyle Sieg Ford Running
26 38 6 Garrett Smithley Chevrolet Running
27 27 11 Josh Williams Chevrolet Running
28 33 4 Dawson Cram (R) Chevrolet Running
29 5 7 Justin Allgaier BRAND Chevrolet Accident
30 35 35 Frankie Muniz The Hot Chick Ford Vibration
31 8 19 Aric Almirola Go Bowling Toyota Accident
32 9 20 John Hunter Nemechek (i) Safeway/Albertsons Toyota Accident
33 19 15 Hailie Deegan (R) AirBox Ford Accident
34 21 1 Sam Mayer Tire Pros Chevrolet Accident
35 18 31 Parker Retzlaff FunkAway Chevrolet Accident
36 17 27 Jeb Burton NORMA Ammunition Chevrolet Accident
37 37 32 Ryan Vargas Lerner & Rowe Chevrolet Suspension
38 36 07 Patrick Emerling MMI Services Chevrolet Accident

Rob Tiongson is a 30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught his eyes. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by him or by one of his talented columnists who have a passion for racing. Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. He enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat. Tiongson, a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, pursues his Master of Arts in Digital Journalism at St. Bonaventure University. Indeed, while Tiongson is proud to be from Massachusetts, he's an everywhere kind of man residing in Texas.

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