The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series drivers headed to Bristol Motor Speedway on Thursday, Sept. 16, for the final cutoff race in the Round of 10. Sheldon Creed dominated for nearly all 200 laps, but Chandler Smith took the lead on the final restart and delivered a storybook ending.
Creed started on the pole and led throughout the race, winning all three stages. Carson Hocevar and other drivers challenged him at times, but none could overtake the No. 2 GMS Racing Chevrolet Camaro. However, the situation changed after the final caution. The drivers lined up for a five-lap shootout with Creed on the outside and Smith next to him. The No. 2 GMS Racing Chevrolet Silverado got a great launch, but Smith kept fighting in the No. 18 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota Tundra before ultimately taking the lead.
Creed lost his position after his rear tire went down. He slid up the track before spinning out of control while Smith and John Hunter Nemechek moved forward and fought for the lead. They bumped trucks a few times before the rookie in Smith jumped to the front of the pack and secured his first-ever Truck Series win.
With three races complete, there are now eight drivers moving on in the playoffs. Creed is still the top seed after winning two races while Smith is the second seed. Nemechek, Matt Crafton, Stewart Friesen, Carson Hocevar, Ben Rhodes, and Zane Smith round out the list. Todd Gilliland and Austin Hill did not advance.
2 Playoff Drivers Dealt With Late Issues
10 Truck Series drivers entered the Bristol race with the goal of reaching the next round of playoffs. However, several remained in danger of elimination. Zane and Chandler both entered the race below the cutline while Rhodes and Hill had minor cushions.
Hill and Zane had issues during the final segment, which hurt their opportunities to stack points and move on in the playoffs. Hill had a speeding penalty on pit road during the Stage 2 break while Zane’s crew received a penalty for throwing a gas can. Both drivers had to drop to the rear of the field and fight their way back while the other playoff drivers remains in the top 10.
The issues continued for Zane as he made his way through the field. He damaged the No. 21 GMS Racing Chevrolet Silverado after colliding with the rear of Jennifer Jo Cobb’s No. 10 Chevrolet. Though he managed to avoid a race-ending collision and moved on to the Round of Eight with a two-point advantage.
Hill, on the other hand, fell below the cutline with only 11 laps remaining in the Truck Series race. He had enough points to move on to the Round of Eight, but he got loose exiting a turn. The No. 16 hit Josh Berry’s No. 25, which sent Hill spinning violently into the inside wall. He rebounded off of the Safer Barrier and slammed into Hailie Deegan’s No. 1 Ford F-150. The incident also collected Austin Wayne Self, Lawless Alan, and Derek Kraus.
Both drivers avoided injuries and were able to climb from their vehicles under their own power. However, Hill watched as his championship hopes came to a violent end. “It’s all on me. I f***** up,” the Truck Series driver said over his radio, per “Jayski” writer Dustin Albino.
2 Playoff Drivers Clinched During the Race
Zane and Hill both experienced frustrating nights at Bristol Motor Speedway, but two of their peers achieved more success before the black and white checkered flag. Stewart Friesen and three-time champion Matt Crafton both clinched their spots in the Round of Eight during the course of the race.
Crafton clinched first after finishing the first two stages third and 10th, respectively. He entered the race 35 points above the cutline and added enough over the course of the first two stages to clinch. He then ended the day seventh overall.
Friesen, on the other hand, entered the race 33 points above the cutline after finishing fourth and third in the first two playoff races. He then took seventh in the first two stages to accumulate enough points and clinch his own spot in the Round of Eight before finishing fourth overall.