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Chandler Smith wins NASCAR Xfinity at Phoenix

... but it wasn't straightforward dominance

NASCAR Xfinity: NASCAR Xfinity Series Race at Phoenix
Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The box score shows that Chandler Smith led the most laps, 88, en route to his first NASCAR Xfinity Series victory of the season on Saturday at Phoenix Raceway but it wasn’t that straightforward.

He inherited the lead right before an overtime finish when Justin Allgaier suffered a left rear flat that sent him hard into the wall. Smith retook the lead and retained it during the green-white-checkered ahead of a battle that featured the likes of Jesse Love, Sheldon Creed, Austin Hill and Cole Custer.

A win this early in the season was big for Smith because he bought his way out of a multiyear agreement with Kaulig Racing at the end of last season so he could join Joe Gibbs Racing which comes with no shortage of pressure and expectations too.

He acknowledged that dynamic after the race too.

“Yes, of course, just from the simple fact that I’m here to win,” Smith said. “I’m in Joe Gibbs Racing equipment. Toyota is supporting me fully like they did before I went to Kaulig Racing and Chevrolet.

“I have everything at my disposal to win every weekend. I’ve been upset, and I told this to Cole Custer before the race today that (I) kept qualifying second and getting good finishes, but it bothered me we hadn’t won yet.

“Those were upsetting but they’re good reasons to be upset. It’s about managing expectations though, and to keep chipping away, and keep the momentum on our side.”

But again, it wasn’t the most straightforward win for reasons detailed below.

Inexplicable Deegan Caution

NASCAR: Truck Series Championship
Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

A caution came out on Lap 138 for Hailie Deegan getting loose in the marbles and brushing the wall. There were no other cars involved.

It shouldn’t have been a caution, objectively.

Even in real time, Deegan asked if she was the caution, because she didn’t feel like it warranted it.  

This became problematic and reflected in the results because …

The Big One

Racing for the lead on the ensuing restart, Smith and John Hunter Nemechek came together, and it triggered at least an eight-car crash that collected frontrunners Nemechek, Sam Mayer, Parker Retzlaff and Jeb Burton.

Upon being released from infield care, Nemechek said he hadn’t seen a replay and would talk it over with Smith on Monday at the Joe Gibbs Racing team debrief.

“I don’t know, there was a little bit of contact, and next thing I knew I was sideways, so part of it.”

“It was definitely Phoenix,” Smith said. “We’ll talk about it on Monday for sure. Typical Phoenix, everyone is searching for real estate and everyone runs out of it and if you’re on the wrong side of it, I hate it for them.”

Mayer got out of the car and shrugged towards the cameras.

“I’m not going to be pissed about it because there’s no reason t be mad when you didn’t do anything wrong so I just wanted to toss it to the fans, and be like, ‘are we racing good,'” he said.

He ultimately blamed it on the two Gibbs drivers.

“You had two teammates packing air on each other for no reason,” Mayer said. “Just putting each other in a bad spot. Really weird but that’s part of it. I guess just racing hard and trying to get a win early, a lot to prove this year, including myself … I have to get my stuff together and be the leader so I don’t get wrecked.”

But again, it’s a restart that in all likelihood didn’t need to happen because of the caution that preceded it.

Allgaier crashes

NASCAR Xfinity: NASCAR Xfinity Series Race at Phoenix
Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Allgaier then drove away to the lead on the next restart and seemed to have the race wrapped up when his left rear let go with four to go and sent him hard into the wall.

That’s how Smith re-assumed the lead.

“I definitely had to have run something over,” Allgaier said. “Wear wise, I feel like we shouldn’t have worn it out to do that. Going through the dog leg, I started to feel it with four or three before that, and I knew what that meant but I wanted it to hold on and it blew out as soon as I lifted.”


Love and Creed completed the podium.

Shane Van Gisbergen made incremental progress all race, spending the first half just inside the top-20, was in the top-10 after the big crash and finished the race in sixth — his second top-10 in four races. He’s 14th in the standings.

Anthony Alfredo also scored a top-10 for Our Motorsports with Leland Honeyman, Ryan Sieg, Blaine Perkins and BJ McLeod also scoring underdog top-15s right behind.

McLeod is 18th in points, the highest he has ever been in the Xfinity standings through this many races.

Playoff grid

Austin Hill 2 wins
Chandler Smith Win
Cole Custer +54
Riley Herbst +50
Jesse Love +39
Sheldon Creed +34
AJ Allmendinger +28
Justin Allgaier +23
Brandon Jones +22
Sammy Smith +18
Parker Kligerman +9
Anthony Alfredo +2

Ryan Sieg -2
Shane Van Gisbergen -7
Jeremy Clements -25

Matt Weaver is a Motorsports Insider for Sportsnaut. Follow him on Twitter.

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