Allgaier Crashes, Chandler Smith Wins In Arizona

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Chandler Smith in victory lane at Phoenix Raceway. (Rusty Jarrett/LAT for Toyota Racing photo)

AVONDALE, Ariz. — Chandler Smith had a message for his Joe Gibbs Racing team after taking the checkered flag in overtime in Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Phoenix Raceway.

“We’ll take ‘em when we can get ‘em,” Smith radioed before celebrating his second career Xfinity Series victory with a burnout near the start/finish line after the Call811.com “Every Dig, Every Time” 200.

It was good fortune — combined with Justin Allgaier’s disastrous bad luck — that put Smith in the winner’s circle after 205 laps at the one-mile track in the Sonoran Desert.

Allgaier held a lead of nearly three seconds after crossing the stripe on Lap 195 of a scheduled 200. But as the driver of the No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet approached turn one, his left rear tire went flat.

Allgaier’s car turned sideways and smashed into the outside wall, ending the race for the veteran driver from Illinois.

“Going through the dogleg (on the frontstretch), I felt (the tire) come apart, like I ran something over, and at that point you’re just a passenger,” Allgaier said. “I just hate it that we tore up a race car. We didn’t go to victory lane. I hate it for all the guys and gals at JR Motorsports.”

On the subsequent overtime restart, Smith pulled away from teammate Sheldon Creed and reached the finish line .365 seconds ahead of rookie Jesse Love, who edged Creed for runner-up honors by .019 seconds.

Allgaier’s ill fortune was determinative, but it wasn’t that Smith didn’t deserve the victory. He won the first 45-lap stage wire-to-wire and led a race-high 88 laps to Allgaier’s 52.

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Chandler Smith en route to victory at Phoenix Raceway. (Lesley Ann Miller for Toyota Racing photo)

“We just lacked a little bit on the 7 (Allgaier),” Smith said. “I hate that happened to him — he had that in the bag. I’m so proud of everybody back at Joe Gibbs Racing. It’s good finally to get this first win off our back for these guys.

“Now we want to go keep racking ‘em up.”

Stage two winner Cole Custer led 61 laps, but his car suffered from a loose handling condition during the final run.

With Custer fading badly, Smith was in the lead, more than 2.5 seconds ahead of Allgaier, when Hailie Deegan brushed the turn two wall on lap 137. To that point, Smith and Custer had combined to lead all the laps.

The relatively innocent-looking fourth caution, however, set the stage for the chaos that followed. Smith lost three spots on pit road as John Hunter Nemechek took the lead.

On the subsequent restart at lap 144, Smith and Nemechek were racing in close quarters when contact from the right-front of Smith’s Toyota turned Nemechek’s Supra in front of the field.

All told, 11 cars sustained damage, with Nemechek; hard-luck Sam Mayer, who suffered his third DNF in four races; Hailie Deegan; Parker Retzlaff; and Jeb Burton unable to continue.

Smith’s No. 81 Toyota was none the worse for wear and restarted next to Allgaier, the race leader, on lap 152. On the longest green flag run of the day, Allgaier pulled away and was cruising to a comfortable win when disaster struck.

That opened the door for Smith to secure his first victory since last April’s win at Richmond for owner Matt Kaulig.

Austin Hill came home fourth, with Custer, the defending series champion, claiming the fifth spot.

New Zealand rookie Shane van Gisbergen, Brandon Jones, Parker Kligerman, Sammy Smith and Anthony Alfredo completed the top 10.

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