By AMANDA VINCENT
Chandler Smith was on the provisional outside looking in in terms of advancement to round two of the 2021 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series playoffs, needing a win Thursday night at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedwat in the UNOH 200, the final race of round one to advance to the second round. Smith had never won a Truck Series race before. That changed Thursday night, though. When Sheldon Creed suffered a flat tire on a restart with five laps remaining, Smith was able to take the lead, and then, his first-career win.
“God is good. God is so damn good,” Smith said. “I’ve really been tested here in the last year or two. Tested my faith and I’ve kept it. This is unbelievable. I can’t thank everyone behind me. Safelite, Toyota, KBM (Kyle Busch Motorsports(, Kyle Busch (team owner) – everybody, Jack Irving (from Toyota Racing Development). This is incredible. I’m speechless right now.”
After dominating the race by leading 189 laps of the 200-lap race, including stage wins on laps 55 and 110, Creed, winner of the two most recent races, finished 19th.
Grant Enfinger finished second, Smith’s Kyle Busch Motorsports teammate John Hunter Nemechek was third, Stewart Friesen fourth and Johnny Sauter rounded out the top five.
Carson Hocevar was the only driver other than Creed and Smith to lead laps in Thursday night’s Truck Series race at Bristol. Hocevar led six laps through pit strategy. Specifically, he inherited the position by staying out during the caution that followed the second stage. Creed retook the lead on lap 122.
With the Bristol race being the last of the three races that made up round one of the playoffs, two drivers saw their championship hopes fly out the window. Todd Gilliland was eliminated from the playoffs, despite a 10th-place finish. Austin Hill was eliminated after a wreck with 10 laps to go.
Other top-10 finishers included Hocevar in sixth, Matt Crafton in seventh, Zane Smith in eighth and Ben Rhodes in ninth.