Zane Smith Wins Wild Truck Series Season Opener at Daytona

DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA – FEBRUARY 18: Zane Smith, driver of the #38 Love’s Travel Stops Ford, celebrates in the Ruoff Mortgage victory lane after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series NextEra Energy 250 at Daytona International Speedway on February 18, 2022 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Zane Smith Wins Wild Truck Series Season Opener at Daytona International Speedway in the NextEra Energy 250 on Friday night.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – A 19-car incident as the field approached the white flag signaling one lap to go instead sent Friday night’s NextEra Energy 250 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season-opener into overtime where 22-year-old Californian Zane Smith won under caution over defending series champion Ben Rhodes.

Zane Smith Wins Wild Truck Series Season Opener at Daytona

A nearly 16-minute red flag was needed to clean up all the debris from the frontstretch melee, which happened only a few feet before the start/finish line and littered much of the track’s tri-oval. Had Smith – the leader at the time – crossed the line before the wreck began, the race would have ended. Instead, the remaining cars that were able to continue, continued.

So Smith had to do it all over again. He lined up alongside Eckes for the final two-lap run to the checkered. A sturdy nudge from behind from Parker Kligerman sent Smith’s No. 38 Front Row Motorsports Ford-150 to the front and he was able to pull away – taking the white flag before caution flew on the final lap. He led only three laps on the night – including the important last two.

“It’s something else, man,” Smith said of winning at the iconic Daytona International Speedway. “This place is its own, I’ll tell you that. Literally my heart hurt during that red flag. I thought we had it.

“Just hats off to this whole group. They’ve really put the work in and it’s so damn cool to see when it pays off. Man, this is going to be a really fun year and I’m going to try and make it a record year for myself.”

The Best of the Rest

Eckes finished third. Former National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) standout Tanner Gray and Kligerman rounded out the top-five. Carson Hocevar, Jesse Little, polesitter Ty Majeski, Danny Bohn and former NASCAR Cup Series driver Matt DiBenedetto rounded out the top-ten. This was DiBenedetto’s career first start in the series.

Kligerman, who was the last driver to qualify for the race on speed, started 31st and rallied into the top five ultimately giving that winning push to Smith, who now has four victories and was championship runner-up last year. It was the kind of dramatic racing – there were 18 lead changes – and finish that fans have come to expect of Truck races on the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway high banks and it did not disappoint.

“This is just huge to get this momentum,” said Kligerman, a part-time series competitor who also does national racing broadcast work for NBC.

He was particular proud of Friday’s effort considering his truck team has only one fulltime employee.

“It’s just such an honor” Kligerman said. “I’m so grateful to have the chance to just show up here, let alone go out there and compete and reel off a top five. We’re just firing on all cylinders.”

Defending Winner has a Rough Ending

While the ending was certainly exciting, last year’s five-race winner John Hunter Nemechek really dominated the early-going. He led a race best 50 of the 106 laps and won both Stage 1 and Stage 2. He was caught up in the massive incident while running in the top-five and ultimately settled for a 24th-place showing.

Next Up for the Camping World Truck Series

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series takes a week off and then resumes competition in the Victoria’s Voice Foundation 200 on March 4 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (6 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Race – 23rd Annual NextEra Energy 250

Daytona International Speedway

Daytona Beach, Florida

Friday, February 18, 2022

                1. (20)  Zane Smith, Ford, 106.

                2. (27)  Ben Rhodes, Toyota, 106.

                3. (14)  Christian Eckes, Toyota, 106.

                4. (24)  Tanner Gray, Ford, 106.

                5. (31)  Parker Kligerman, Chevrolet, 106.

                6. (9)  Jesse Little, Chevrolet, 106.

                7. (1)  Ty Majeski, Toyota, 106.

                8. (28)  Danny Bohn, Chevrolet, 106.

                9. (22)  Carson Hocevar, Chevrolet, 106.

                10. (23)  Matt DiBenedetto, Chevrolet, 106.

                11. (15)  Spencer Boyd, Chevrolet, 106.

                12. (8)  Riley Herbst(i), Ford, 106.

                13. (16)  Austin Wayne Self, Chevrolet, 106.

                14. (35)  Timmy Hill, Toyota, 106.

                15. (13)  Austin Hill(i), Chevrolet, 106.

                16. (5)  Stewart Friesen, Toyota, 106.

                17. (26)  Hailie Deegan, Ford, 106.

                18. (34)  Thad Moffitt, Chevrolet, 106.

                19. (12)  Kris Wright, Chevrolet, 106.

                20. (33)  Jason White, Toyota, Accident, 105.

                21. (3)  Chandler Smith, Toyota, 105.

                22. (32)  Tate Fogleman, Toyota, 105.

                23. (25)  Bryan Dauzat, Chevrolet, 105.

                24. (2)  John Hunter Nemechek, Toyota, 104.

                25. (10)  Lawless Alan #, Chevrolet, Accident, 103.

                26. (30)  Derek Kraus, Chevrolet, Accident, 101.

                27. (29)  Matt Crafton, Toyota, Accident, 100.

                28. (4)  Tyler Ankrum, Toyota, Accident, 99.

                29. (7)  Grant Enfinger, Chevrolet, Accident, 99.

                30. (18)  Colby Howard, Chevrolet, Accident, 99.

                31. (19)  Blaine Perkins #, Chevrolet, Accident, 99.

                32. (6)  Corey Heim #, Toyota, Accident, 91.

                33. (11)  Jack Wood #, Chevrolet, Accident, 63.

                34. (36)  Johnny Sauter, Toyota, Electrical, 60.

                35. (21)  Bret Holmes, Chevrolet, Clutch, 44.

                36. (17)  Dean Thompson #, Chevrolet, Brakes, 36.

NextEra Energy 250 Stats

Average Speed of Race Winner:  129.146 mph.

Time of Race:  Two Hrs, Three Mins, Seven Secs. The Margin of Victory:  Under Caution Seconds.

Caution Flags:  Seven for 27 laps.

Lead Changes:  18 among ten drivers.

Lap Leaders:   T. Majeski 1-18;J. Nemechek 19-29;S. Friesen 30-31;T. Majeski 32-34;D. Kraus 35;T. Ankrum 36-37;J. Nemechek 38-43;A. Hill(i) 44;C. Howard 45-51;J. Nemechek 52-64;Z. Smith 65;J. Nemechek 66-67;C. Howard 68;T. Ankrum 69-70;C. Howard 71;J. Nemechek 72-89;B. Rhodes 90-95;C. Eckes 96-104;Z. Smith 105-106.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  John Hunter Nemechek five times for 50 laps; Ty Majeski two times for 21 laps; Colby Howard three times for nine laps; Christian Eckes one time for nine laps; Ben Rhodes one time for six laps; Tyler Ankrum two times for four laps; Zane Smith two times for three laps; Stewart Friesen one time for two laps; Derek Kraus one time for one lap; Austin Hill(i) one time for one lap.

Stage 1 Top-Ten: 4,18,52,51,38,23,66,15,32,16

Stage 2 Top-Ten: 4,99,18,98,88,22,16,19,7,66