The Camping World Truck Series drivers headed out onto Nashville Superspeedway on Friday, June 18, for their first practice sessions on the concrete oval. Temperatures hovered in the low 80s on a relatively cloudless day as they headed around the 1.33-mile track. There were several NASCAR drivers that found success early as they felt out the track and dealt with tire wear, including John Hunter Nemechek and Matt Crafton. Though one of Nemechek’s teammates at Kyle Busch Motorsports found the most success.
Chandler Smith posted the best speed (157.749) during his first seven laps and then he finished the day with a speed of 161.489. He set the track record and set himself up for another strong performance after two consecutive top-10 finishes in the No. 18 Toyota Tundra. Smith did not have previous experience at Nashville, but he celebrated that it is a “driver’s track.”
“It was honestly unbelievable,” Smith told media members during a press conference that Heavy attended. “I’ve never been to this track in my life. I have a lot of experience at the Fairgrounds [Speedway], and I’ve always kind of wondered what this place would be like because I remembered when NASCAR raced here.
“It’s awesome. I love this race track. I feel like it’s a driver’s track. It’s close to a mile-and-a-half, it’s got the same speeds as a mile-and-a-half, but it drives so much like a short track, which I love to death. Should be a fun race for tonight.”
Smith Took Some Test Laps Around Nashville Using the Sim
As one of the drivers without previous experience at Nashville Superspeedway, Smith had to take a different approach to prepare for the weekend schedule. He specifically got into the sim rig to take some virtual laps and try to get a feel for the 1.33-mile concrete oval. The simulation can’t replicate tire wear, but it can provide other crucial information.
“The simulator, everything translated pretty good,” Smith added during the media availability. “The only thing I felt that wasn’t in the simulator is that there is a bump right there at the bottom of the apex on [Turn] 3. I didn’t feel that very much in the simulator, but overall, it hit everything else.”
Smith will now have to take the information gathered on the practice laps and use them to compete for his first win of the season. The KBM truck has considerable speed, which Smith showed on Friday morning. However, he will have to avoid on-track incidents and other potential issues.
William Byron Had an Early Learning Curve to Overcome
One of the most consistent Cup Series drivers in 2021, Hendrick Motorsports driver William Byron returned to the Truck Series on Friday for the Rackley Roofing 200. He impressed as the end of practice approached, posting a speed of 161.288 mph, but he took some time to reach this point.
Unlike other drivers in NASCAR, Byron has not competed in the two lower series since making the leap to Cup in 2018. His last Xfinity Series start was in 2017 while his last Truck Series start was in 2016. Byron has only focused on his Cup Series career and making Hendrick Motorsports into a championship contender.
This lack of familiarity with the Trucks became evident early in Friday’s practice sessions. Byron completed several laps around Nashville Superspeedway, posting speeds outside of the top 20. However, he gradually improved throughout the session, eventually taking the top spot with three minutes remaining. However, Smith leapfrogged him at the very end to capture the fastest lap (161.489).
“I feel like [competing in Trucks] is a great opportunity for me to learn, and I feel like now — in the Cup cars — I feel pretty up to speed,” Byron said during a press conference that Heavy attended. “I don’t feel like I’m at a deficit by any means. It’s just figuring out the little details of the track.”
The Rackley Roofing 200 Truck Series race will take place on Friday, June 18, at 8 p.m. ET. FS1 will provide coverage for the first event at Nashville Superspeedway in a decade. MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will provide audio coverage.