• Fri. Jun 2nd, 2023

Zane Smith repeats as COTA Truck Champ

ByEvan McNelia

Mar 25, 2023

Photo courtesy of Chris Graythen | Getty Images

2022 NASCAR Truck Series Champion Zane Smith secured his second victory of the 2023 season after out-dueling Kyle Busch in the XPEL 225 at Circuit of the Americas. The win serves as payback for Smith’s runner-up finish to Busch at Las Vegas, which prevented him from going back-to-back after opening the season with a win at Daytona.

NASCAR eliminated Stage cautions for all events at Road Courses during Cup Series weekends for the 2023 season. It’s the first time since 2016 that NASCAR has not used Stage cautions in a race. As Busch led near the end of Stage 2 some drivers elected to pit behind him.

A caution was waved after Busch won Stage 2 for the stalled truck of Parker Kligerman, who had placed fifth in the stage. He had come to a stop on the front stretch due to a mechanical failure which resulted in his second DNF in his two Truck races this season.

Busch still needed to pit but did so without the group of trucks which got in before the caution. On the restart he started back in 16th with 14 laps to go. It took him just three laps to get back into the top three and after a battle with Ben Rhodes, he took second with a gap larger than six seconds to race-leader Zane Smith. Busch was only ever able to get as close as five seconds and Zane Smith dominated the final Stage leading the last 15 laps of the race basically uncontested.

“We were playing the long game but unfortunately the long game didn’t work,” Busch said after the race on the broadcast.

Last week’s race winner from Atlanta Christian Eckes had issues through the mid-race after he won Stage 1. He fell back from the front and did not finish the race as his day ended on Lap 31.

2022 Championship 4 driver Ty Majeski finished the race in third registering his best finish of 2023. Tyler Ankrum also had his best finish of the season placing fourth. Ross Chastain rounded out the top five in his second truck race of the season.

Chastain competed for the lead with Busch earlier in the race but during the pit window that put Busch back in 16th, Chastain had an issue of his own causing him to fall back to 28th. He had an issue with his fuel pump and his team had to work in the truck bed to replace it.

In Stage 1, two drivers in the top 10 in driver points, Carson Hocevar and Matt Crafton, both wrecked out of the race after spinning out into gravel at different portions of the track.

On Lap 8 Hocevar spun out in Turn 11 after not being able to brake at the end of a long straightaway. He got stuck in the gravel outside of the turn and had to be pulled out. Crafton was able to get out of the gravel on his own when he spun in the esses but he was penalized for an uncontrolled tire while exiting pit road and the damage from the spin ended up being enough to end his day.

Alex Bowman was slated to run the race but did not qualify after losing a tire during his qualifying run.

During his victory burnout, Smith caused quite a situation on the front stretch as he caught his mud flaps on fire while pressing the nose of his truck against a wall. Safety crews were seen extinguishing the flames in the background of his post race interview.

Next week, the Craftsman Truck Series will race its first event of the season separate from both the Cup and Xfinity Series. While the cars head to Richmond, Virginia, trucks will stay in the state of Texas heading to Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth to serve as prelim to Sunday’s IndyCar race. The 2023 SpeedyCash.com 250 is next Saturday, April 2, at 4:30 p.m. ET on FS1. 

The following week, the Truck Series will rejoin the Cup Series over Easter weekend for dirt racing at Bristol Motor Speedway.

note: Post-race inspection concluded without issue, confirming Smith and the No. 38 team as the winner of Saturday’s race.