Kyle Busch Motorsports may have won at Atlanta Motor Speedway with Corey Heim taking the checkered flag, but there were some post-race issues. Chandler Smith made frustrated comments about another teammate, John Hunter Nemechek.
“A lap truck ended up just dictating the finish,” the driver of the No. 18 told Racing America after the race. “He shoved him right by me. I mean, if it wasn’t him, it would’ve been a different result more than likely. I don’t know.
“… A lap truck just shoved the guy out that won and then blocked everybody else that had a run too. Like I get it: We’re teammates. You’re trying to help him out. But you f***** your other teammate. Whatever.”
The comments stem from a late-race decision made by the driver of the No. 4 KBM Toyota Tundra. Nemechek was a lap down, but he played a major role in the outcome of the race with a big push.
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Smith had the lead during the final run to the checkered flag, but Heim dove to the inside to try to take the lead. Nemechek followed the part-time driver to the bottom and pushed him to the front of the pack. Instead of having an opportunity to win his second-straight race, Smith finished fourth overall.
One intriguing part of the decision is the fact that Heim is a part-time driver. He is not eligible for the playoffs despite winning while Smith could potentially battle Nemechek for the championship trophy.
Smith Has a Secure Spot in the Playoffs
The defending Rookie of the Year, Smith secured his spot in the playoffs by winning at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He punched his ticket to the playoffs and joined Zane Smith on the list of drivers currently eligible for the championship chase.
Nemechek’s decision to push Heim didn’t derail Smith’s pursuit of a spot in the playoffs. However, it took away some points that would have helped him immensely in both the pursuit of the regular-season title and a spot well above the elimination line in the opening round of the playoffs.
There are three races complete in the Camping World Truck Series season, and Smith currently has the top spot in the standings. He has 132 points after two top-five finishes and a win. He is currently 13 points ahead of Tanner Gray and 17 points ahead of Ty Majeski. For comparison, Zane is ninth overall with 79 points.
While Smith has the points lead and a secure spot in the playoffs, that does not mean that he left Atlanta happy. He specifically told Racing America after the race that KBM had held a meeting about working together but that his fellow drivers did not follow through.
“We didn’t even relatively even try to do that today,” Smith continued. “So, it’s just really irritating because I’m a big believer and we’ve got to do that. We’ve got to do that. I mean, I was all on board with it all day and then it comes to a point where I keep getting screwed over.”
Heim Had Different Comments About the Push
There were some strong words from Smith about Nemechek’s decision, but the race-winning driver had some different comments after the race. He praised both of his teammates for the way they drove during the final run to the checkered flag.
“No team orders there,” Heim told FOX Sports’ Jamie Howe after the race. “I think as long as one KBM truck won, that’s all that matters. The [No.] 18 did an awesome job there defending for most of the race, and the [No.] 4 stuck with me when it mattered the most. I’ve got to give all the credit to John Hunter Nemechek for helping me out there.”
Heim has the luxury of being on the receiving end of the race-winning push. He can voice praise for the big moves that Smith made while running at the front of the pack. He can also express appreciation for the help of his other teammate.