Smith Rallies Through The Field For Martinsville Podium


Chandler Smith in action at Martinsville Speedway. (Jacob Seelman/RFD photo)

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Chandler Smith overcame a practice crash and 37th-place starting spot to challenge for the win Saturday night at Martinsville Speedway, ultimately recording a third-place finish.

Smith rallied through every adversity thrown his way, going from not being able to qualify due to the left-side damage on his No. 81 Wheelers Toyota GR Supra Saturday to leading inside the final 15 laps of the NASCAR Xfinity Series DUDE Wipes 250 at the .526-mile paper clip.

While he was shuffled out of the top spot on lap 241 by his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate and eventual winner, Aric Almirola, Smith still left southern Virginia pleased with the effort and resiliency shown by his team throughout the weekend.

“Just really, really proud of everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing,” said Smith after the race. “All of the men and women that put this thing back together [Friday] night, working through the hours of the night, they deserve so much credit for this run. We had a really fast No. 81 Wheelers Toyota GR Supra. Just got a little behind on my adjustments there in the end, and that bit us a bit, but still a great night for us.”

Smith worked his way from the rear into the top 20 by the end of the first 60-lap stage, then ended up scoring stage points with an eighth-place ranking at the conclusion of stage two.

From there, he spent the majority of the second half running as part of a JGR 1-2-3 parade along with Almirola and Sheldon Creed, who battled with Smith for second place much of the night.

Though Smith spent the stretch run of the race ahead of most of the chaos that characterized the midfield, he admitted that Saturday night was still “pretty crazy” by Martinsville’s standards.

That whirlwind included a lap-71 pileup on a restart, when Brandon Jones missed a shift and stacked up the field, that Smith was narrowly able to avoid.

“It was really wild. I definitely had the good Lord looking down on me tonight – just helping me guide through all of that traffic there,” tipped Smith. “There was a point with that big pileup where the 9 (Brandon Jones) missed a shift – I was going to take the top, and I ended up taking the bottom. That could have ended our night right there, but thankfully we got through it and kept moving forward.”

With a strong night under his belt and lessons learned, Smith assumed the regular season point lead leaving Martinsville, a potential harbinger of things to come in November during the penultimate race of the season – when the Xfinity Series Championship 4 is finalized at Martinsville.

“We have really good notes for when we come back in the fall, and that’s big,” he said. “With the importance of that race and what it means for the championship [battle], that’s what you want.”

Smith will return to action Saturday, April 13 as the NASCAR Xfinity Series heads to Texas Motor Speedway for the running of the Andy’s Frozen Custard 300. He finished fourth there last year.

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About Jacob Seelman

Jacob Seelman is Motorsports Hotspot’s News Editor and Race Face Digital’s Director of Content, as well as a veteran of more than a decade in the racing industry as a professional, though he’s spent his entire life in the garage and pit area.