Chandler Smith Heats Up NASCAR Rookie of the Year Battle

Chandler Smith

Getty Chandler Smith celebrates a win at Richmond Raceway.

The NASCAR Xfinity Series Rookie of the Year battle just took a unique turn. Chandler Smith won his first career race and put himself in the position to capture the prestigious award.

The driver of the No. 16 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet Camaro entered the Richmond weekend with 196 points. He was 11 over Joe Gibbs Racing’s Sammy Smith, who won his first career Xfinity Series race at Phoenix Raceway. Parker Retzlaff (100 points) and Blaine Perkins (26 points) were behind them both.

Smith went out and turned in a strong performance at Richmond Raceway. He led 83 laps, won Stage 1, and held off former Kyle Busch Motorsports teammate John Hunter Nemechek on the final run to the checkered flag.

Smith has now increased his lead over the driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota GR Supra. He has an advantage in the Rookie of the Year battle, but this is not something that he can win during the regular season now that there are multiple rookies with wins. This battle will continue throughout the Xfinity Series playoffs.

The Points Reset After the Regular-Season Finale

Chandler Smith

GettyChandler Smith does a burnout at Richmond Raceway.

There have been seasons in the past when national series drivers have locked up Rookie of the Year before the playoffs even started. Austin Cindric did so in the NASCAR Cup Series in 2022 as he won the Daytona 500. Fellow rookies Harrison Burton and Todd Gilliland did not reach the playoffs.

A similar situation occurred during the 2020 Cup Series season. Cole Custer won a race at Kentucky Speedway and reached the playoffs. John Hunter Nemechek missed the playoffs.

The reason why these regular-season wins matter is that the points reset once the playoffs start. The playoff drivers move to 2,000 base points for the opening round. Their points from stage wins and race wins get added to this total. The drivers that did not make the playoffs just keep adding points to their regular-season totals.

Now that both drivers with the surname of Smith have won a race, they will each make it to the playoffs. They will continue their Rookie of the Year battle through the rounds while trying to gain the slightest advantage.

There Was Another Benefit for Smith

John Hunter Nemechek

GettyJohn Hunter Nemechek (front) & Chandler Smith (rear) will battle for the Dash 4 Cash money.

Wins, playoff points, and championships are the most important items on Smith’s to-do list. However, he has secured another benefit by winning his first career NASCAR Xfinity Series race.

As the winner of the Richmond race, Smith now has an automatic spot in the next Dash 4 Cash event. He will try to capture the $100,000 bonus for the first time in his career while joining three other drivers.

Justin Allgaier, the winner of the Richmond Dash 4 Cash prize, will pursue his second consecutive oversized check and his sixth overall. Runner-Up John Hunter Nemechek and third-place finisher Josh Berry will both join the lineup while pursuing the bonus money.

This battle for the Dash 4 Cash bonus will take place in two weeks. The Xfinity Series drivers are off for Easter weekend while the Craftsman Truck Series and Cup Series drivers head to Bristol Motor Speedway (dirt). The Xfinity Series will return to action at Martinsville Speedway on April 15.

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