Photo courtesy of Chris Graythen | Getty Images
It was indeed, third time’s the charm for Zane Smith at Phoenix Raceway on Friday night as Smith held off Chandler Smith and Ben Rhodes in overtime to win the 2022 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship.
After Ty Majeski, one of the four Championship 4 drivers, crashed out of his title bid, attempting to make a move on Zane Smith with four laps to go, the Truck Series championship came down to Zane, defending champion Ben Rhodes and Chandler Smith, last year’s race winner at Phoenix.
Smith used the bottom on the restart to gain the advantage and held off the competition on the final lap to win the title after finishing as the runner-up each of the last two seasons.
Third time's a charm. ZANE SMITH IS YOUR 2022 NASCAR TRUCK SERIES CHAMPION! https://t.co/cwGtdRqVSZ pic.twitter.com/DIVgcLQXhr
— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) November 5, 2022
“Third time’s the charm, oh my god!” Smith said. “I want this more than anyone in the world, I don’t care what anyone says. I was crying the whole [final] lap.”
In his first season with Front Row Motorsports, Smith won four races and the title, and unlike last year’s championship race, he had stability with his future.
Zane won pole and swept both stages after holding off Chandler Smith in the second stage.
Then, the Front Row driver had a poor pit stop and had to restart 11th on a late caution caused by Hailee Deegan. However, Zane showed his championship mettle by making a pass on Chandler when the field went five-wide on the “Dogleg.”
“I wasn’t gonna let it go down like that, I was either wrecked or I was winning this thing, there was no other option,” Smith said. “Last year and the year before, we showed so much speed and should’ve won a lot more races than we did but Bob Jenkins [Front Row Motorsports owner] is the only reason I’m here right now.”
“It’s all Zane right there, we put tires on and let him do what Zane does,” Smith’s crew chief Chris Lawson said.
Rhodes, who passed Smith for the title last year, took two tires on the late caution by Deegan to gain track position and put himself ahead of the other two contenders. He led before Majeski’s wreck forced an overtime restart. The defending champion finished in second place.
“Two tires vs. four, that was the name of the game,” Rhodes said. “We didn’t have the pace all night that we needed to compete. Ultimately, we didn’t need that last caution, I think we could have held them off for the final few laps. Second is not fun and I’m gonna mope all the way back home to Kentucky.”
Chandler Smith, who is joining Kaulig Racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series next season, had a series of huge pit stops that pushed him up the field after starting 12th. He went from eighth to the top four in the second stage, but lost the duel to Zane Smith.
He pushed for the win on the final lap, but fell two positions short.
Majeski, who won two races in the Round of 8 at Bristol and Homestead, had to settle for a 20th-place finish after failing to pass Zane Smith and crashed out of contention.
The Truck Series will rebrand back to the Craftsman Truck Series for 2023 and will open its season on Feb. 17 at Daytona International Speedway.
Updates to come
Unofficial race results: