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Chandler Smith Drives to ToyotaCare 250 Win at Richmond

Chandler Smith

Chandler Smith emerged victorious in Saturday’s ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond for a second consecutive year. (Photo: Daniel Rankin | The Podium Finish)

RICHMOND, Va. —  It is not about how one starts but how one finishes as Chandler Smith demonstrated in Saturday’s ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond Raceway.

Rolling from the fourth position, Smith slipped to a seventh place finish in Stage 1. Clearly, Smith’s Mobil 1 Toyota GR Supra was not handling to his liking.

However, Smith and crew chief Jeff Meendering worked together to improve their Joe Gibbs Racing mount. By Stage 2, Smith worked his way up to a third place result, netting 12 stage points while teammate Aric Almirola swept the stages.

With Stage 3 underway at the 0.75-mile short track, tempers flared after Dawson Cram and Joey Gase tangled in Turn 1 on Lap 173. Gase backed his No. 35 NCPC Race Against Crime Chevrolet into the SAFER barrier with a heavy damage to the rear clip.

A lap later, Gase ripped the rear bumper cover of his wrecked machine and chucked it at Cram’s No. 4 Chevrolet Camaro, showing complete disgust at the rookie racer.

“I think him just not having his head screwed on right,” Gase said to FOX NASCAR’s Regan Smith. “I gave the kid his first opportunity ever in XFINITY. I know Johnny Davis is in the business of wrecking racecars, and we’re definitely not. We’re a small team and we’re racing hard for the lucky dog. Apparently, he just didn’t know to lift. Maybe his throttle stuck. I don’t know.”

During the caution period, the top 14 runners opted to stay out for track position while Smith and Almirola pitted for fresh tires and fuel. Considering Richmond’s abrasive surface, the tire advantage paid dividends for the Gibbs duo as Smith retook the lead on Lap 191 while Almirola rallied to second just three laps later.

Chandler Smith

Make no mistake that Chandler Smith worked hard for his second straight ToyotaCare 250 win at Richmond. (Photo: Daniel Rankin | The Podium Finish)

From there, Smith and Almirola settled into their positions for the remainder of the race while Cole Custer, the reigning series champion, dropped to 29th, two laps down when he pitted for four tires, suspecting a tire that was going down on Lap 224.

However, with the fresh tires, Custer managed to drive from 29th to 10th in the final 27 laps, a hard charge by the Stewart-Haas Racing driver.

Unlike last year’s race, Smith enjoyed a more relaxing drive to his latest Richmond win, besting Almirola by 4.495 seconds. Needless to say, Smith praised a higher presence and his Gibbs crew.

“It was a great call,” Smith said. “First of all, all glory to God – without Him, I wouldn’t be where I’m at right now, with this amazing group of guys and gals back at Joe Gibbs Racing with amazing partners like Mobil 1, Toyota Racing.

“We wouldn’t be able to contend for wins like we are. I won my first XFINITY race here last year – in the ToyotaCare 250 and here we again, with Mobil 1 Toyota GR Supra in Mobil 1 Victory Lane. I’m really excited about that – ready to get home and celebrate one of the biggest days in history tomorrow.”

Aric Almirola

It was a very competitive showing for Aric Almirola in Saturday’s ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond. (Photo: Daniel Rankin | The Podium Finish)

For what it was worth, Almirola flexed his muscles in his No. 19 ride with dominance and hardly looking like a driver on a partial schedule. If anything, he was like a racer who came ready to win although he secured a runner up result.

“We just got a little bit too loose,” Almirola said. “The run before that was Stage 2 and my car took off and my car was really, really good. At the end, just built a little bit too tight and that last run – for whatever reason – I don’t know if it was the set of tires or what. I let Chandler (Smith) go and then when I started to just creep back to him.

“I didn’t have anything to go with – I was too loose in, and I couldn’t get the throttle down on exit. Hate that – to win both stage and feel like I had the dominate car and then to let it slip away there in the end is disappointing, but it was a fun weekend this weekend in Richmond, coming back 18 years from my first start with Coach.”

Taylor Gray

Taylor Gray during the ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond. (Photo: Daniel Rankin | The Podium Finish)

Rounding out the podium, Taylor Gray, making his XFINITY series debut, worked his way from 27th, finishing ninth in Stage 1 and fourth in Stage 2 before taking a third place result. The young stock car racer praised his team while considering his Saturday afternoon performance.

“Just being patient all day,” Gray said. “I can’t thank all of the Joe Gibbs Racing guys enough for bring me a great A Place of Hope Toyota GR Supra. It was definitely as fast as XFINITY internet today. I made too many mistakes there throughout the race to be able to capitalize on such a fast car. I can’t thank all of my guys enough back at the shop.”

Overall, Gibbs’ trio swept the podium with Smith further validating himself as a genuine championship favorite. Despite winning by a comfortable margin, Smith made it clear that he still had to do some work in his fast Supra.

Chandler Smith

Chandler Smith embraces his wife, Kenzie, in a tender moment after winning Saturday’s ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond. (Photo: Daniel Rankin | The Podium Finish)

“I was riding pretty hard honestly,” Smith observed. “I went right off the rip pretty hard just to get control of the lead and set my own pace. Once I could set my own pace, I was riding pretty decently there. If a caution came out, it is what it is. It probably wouldn’t have been my time, but it was our time today. And I’m going to cherish the moment.”

Stage 1 Top 10 Results
  1. Aric Almirola
  2. Brennan Poole
  3. Corey Heim (i)
  4. Justin Allgaier
  5. Sam Mayer
  6. Riley Herbst
  7. Chandler Smith
  8. Cole Custer
  9. Taylor Gray (i)
  10. Sammy Smith
Stage 2 Top 10 Results
  1. Aric Almirola
  2. Sam Mayer
  3. Chandler Smith
  4. Taylor Gray (i)
  5. Corey Heim (i)
  6. Justin Allgaier
  7. Austin Hill
  8. Parker Retzlaff
  9. Cole Custer
  10. Logan Bearden
ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond Raceway Race Results
Finish Start Car No. Driver Sponsor/Make Status
1 4 81 Chandler Smith Mobil 1 Toyota Running
2 10 20 Aric Almirola He Gets Us Toyota Running
3 27 19 Taylor Gray (i) Piece of Hope Toyota Running
4 6 26 Corey Heim (i) GearWrench Toyota Running
5 8 2 Jesse Love (R) Whelen Chevrolet Running
6 37 88 Bubba Pollard Rheem Chevrolet Running
7 9 48 Parker Kligerman Spiked Lite Coolers Chevrolet Running
8 16 21 Austin Hill Bennett Transportation Chevrolet Running
9 13 8 Sammy Smith Pilot Flying J Coffee Chevrolet Running
10 3 00 Cole Custer Haas Automation Ford Running
11 5 7 Justin Allgaier DeCA/Hellmann’s Chevrolet Running
12 26 11 Josh Williams Alloy Employer Services Chevrolet Running
13 14 98 Riley Herbst Monster Energy Ford Running
14 7 16 AJ Allmendinger Action Industries Chevrolet Running
15 12 97 Shane van Gisbergen (i) WeatherTech Chevrolet Running
16 1 31 Parker Retzlaff FUNKAWAY Chevrolet Running
17 23 91 Kyle Weatherman myradar/ Chevrolet Running
18 31 38 Matt DiBenedetto Viking Motorsports Ford Running
19 29 92 Josh Bilicki Chesterfield Auto Parts Chevrolet Running
20 25 42 Leland Honeyman (R) RANDCO Chevrolet Running
21 36 6 Garrett Smithley Long Drink Chevrolet Running
22 32 14 Logan Bearden Bearden Automotive Chevrolet Running
23 34 28 Kyle Sieg Eastern Fuel System Ford Running
24 17 51 Jeremy Clements Nordic Logistics Chevrolet Running
25 33 4 Dawson Cram (R) Chevrolet Running
26 21 27 Jeb Burton CELSIUS Live Fit Chevrolet Running
27 22 43 Ryan Ellis Southern Elevator Chevrolet Running
28 19 44 Brennan Poole Finance Pro Plus Chevrolet Running
29 18 5 Anthony Alfredo Dude Wipes Chevrolet Running
30 11 1 Sam Mayer 10X Health Chevrolet Running
31 24 15 Hailie Deegan (R) AirBox Ford Running
32 15 39 Ryan Sieg Sci Aps Ford Running
33 28 29 Blaine Perkins Ford Running
34 38 35 Joey Gase NCPC Race Against Crime Chevrolet Accident
35 20 18 Sheldon Creed Friends of Jaclyn Foundation Toyota Brakes
36 35 07 Patrick Emerling Southern Tier Security Chevrolet Brakes
37 2 9 Brandon Jones Menards/Nibco Chevrolet Engine
38 30 32 Ryan Vargas Chevrolet Engine

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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