Photo by Evan McNelia | Elevated Media
AVONDALE, Ariz — 18-year-old Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 driver Sammy Smith won his first career NASCAR Xfinity Series race in his now 13-race career. The rookie from Johnston, Iowa won a caution-filled United Rentals 200 at Phoenix Raceway to give JGR its second win of the season.
RETWEET TO CONGRATULATE SAMMY SMITH ON HIS FIRST NASCAR XFINITY SERIES WIN! https://t.co/zomS5Ki6c6 pic.twitter.com/1WGxy2OZS7
— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) March 12, 2023
“This is a dream come true,” Smith said. “It’s awesome to be racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and to be a winner today is awesome.”
The race saw 11 cautions throughout the day, forcing the field to run much of the final stage on older tires.
Cautions injected themselves into the race late in each stage, leading teams to split pit road strategies.
JR Motorsports No. 8 driver Josh Berry took the brunt of the cautions by being spun on turns multiple times. His first merry-go-round came at the end of Stage 1 when Kaulig Racing No. 16 driver Chandler Smith got into the back of him. The green flag returned with two laps to go where JRM No. 7 driver Justin Allgaier took the lead and the stage win.
Berry was also spun near the end of Stage 2 by his teammate, JRM No. 1 driver Sam Mayer. Both Smith and Mayer said over their team radios that they were at fault. Berry sustained minor damage in each wreck and managed to finish the race in eighth place.
"My bad."- Chandler Smith https://t.co/qboLkZ6xKj pic.twitter.com/ImgJqna0Ga
— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) March 11, 2023
JGR No. 20 driver John Hunter Nemechek led on a restart in the middle of Stage 2 following a spin from Sam Hunt Racing No. 24 driver Connor Mosack. Nemechek was called for a restart violation on Lap 75 after dropping below the yellow line before crossing the start/finish line. He served a pass-through penalty.
One of the handful of comebacks throughout the field, Nemechek finished sixth.
Once again a restart occurred with two laps to go in a stage. Most of the field pitted for new tires in preparation for the final stage, but Allgaier elected to stay out on old tires to go for the stage sweep. Allgaier won Stage 2 to reach three stage wins this season.
Justin Allgaier sweeps the opening two stages of the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Phoenix.https://t.co/AJtlwY4sOd | #NASCARonFS1 pic.twitter.com/MjlHMRrZFr
— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) March 11, 2023
Allgaier sacrificed his track position for a playoff point, a decision he and his team may regret going forward. The No. 7 car received the brunt of the damage in a wreck with 22 laps to go when AM Racing No. 25 driver Brett Moffitt slid up the track and collected Allhgaier and Sam Hunt Racing No. 26 driver Kaz Grala. The wreck ended Allgaier’s day where he ended in 36th.
A wild sequence of events leads to this accident. 👇 https://t.co/4BXXZBPO3K pic.twitter.com/Nc01v3FVfk
— NASCAR Xfinity (@NASCAR_Xfinity) March 12, 2023
Kaulig Racing No. 10 driver Kyle Busch was the biggest comeback story of the night. The 102-time Xfinity race winner started from the rear due to an unapproved fuel adjustment. Busch picked up 23 positions in the first 32 laps.
He liberally used the Dogleg to reach the front and lead three laps. He spent much of the time battling Sammy Smith for the lead, but the driver who was born three months after Busch’s Cup Series debut got the best of him. Busch pushed his car beyond the limit on the final lap, causing him to lose control and fall back to ninth.
Rowdy … is coming through to begin the final stage! 👀
📺: FS1 | 📲: https://t.co/qkbTgR6mnc pic.twitter.com/Uvv6Gqpf3u
— NASCAR Xfinity (@NASCAR_Xfinity) March 11, 2023
The battle for second was ultimately won by JGR No. 19 driver Ryan Truex. In his second season running part-time with JGR, Truex earned his third career second-place finish in the Xfinity Series.
“I just worked on my restarts all day,” Truex said. “Being aggressive, getting to the bottom, cut the Dogleg. Basically being on the apron on [Turns] 3 and 4 every lap on restarts, that’s what got me into second place. I did everything I could to catch Sammy. His car was just a little too good there. I probably pushed a little too hard trying to get him and started getting tight but overall proud of the effort.”
Truex closed in on Smith by less than half a second, but could not catch the high-school kid.
“I thought we were good at the start,” Truex said to FOX Sports’ Regan Smith. “I think the track just changed a lot more than I expected it to. Congrats to Sammy. He was just the class of the field all day. His car just looked so good.”
Smith becomes the youngest Xfinity Series driver to win at Phoenix. The back-to-back reigning ARCA Menards Series East Champion said he was happy to get his first win at his favorite track.
“I think just because of the two corners,” Smith said on why Phoenix is his favorite track. “It’s kind of a short track and then also, obviously, it’s a mile so it’s big too but I like the Dogleg and the difference between the corners.”
The 2023 NASCAR Xfinity Series season continues with the fifth race of the year being the RAPTOR 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia on Saturday, March 18 at 5 p.m. EST.
Coverage of the race will be on FOX Sports 1, Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR radio.
NOTE: Technical inspection is complete. No issues. Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Sammy Smith is confirmed as the winner.