Sammy Smith earned his first career NASCAR Xfinity Series (NXS) victory on Saturday at Phoenix Raceway. The No. 18 Pilot Flying J Toyota GR Supra started 11th in the United Rentals 200. The 18-year-old made his way into the top five by Lap 20. He led a total of 92 laps to win in just his 13th career start. Notable Stats:
Smith became the fourth youngest driver to get his first NXS win at 18 years, nine months, and seven days.
Smith ran the fastest lap of the race at 128.105 miles per hour.
Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) has had six straight years with an NXS win at Phoenix with six different drivers.
Saturday’s win was the 16th win for JGR at Phoenix.
Smith was the fourth different driver to win in the No. 18 at Phoenix.
The win was the ninth win for the JGR NXS No. 18 car at Phoenix.
Date: March 11, 2023 Event: United Rentals 200 (Race 4 of 33) Series: NASCAR Xfinity Series Location: Phoenix Raceway Format: 200 laps (Stages: 45 laps / 45 laps / 110 laps) Race Winner: Sammy Smith Stage 1 Winner: Justin Allgaier Stage 2 Winner: Justin Allgaier Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-45)
Smith entered the top five on Lap 20.
The 18 team opted to stay out during the caution on Lap 41.
Smith brought the No. 18 down pit road for four tires, fuel, and adjustments during the stage break after finishing third in the stage.
Stage 2 Recap (Laps 46-90)
Smith started Stage 2 further back as cars that pitted on Lap 41 stayed out during the stage break.
The caution came back out on Lap 56 as a car spun near Smith, but the No. 18 made it through without damage.
The caution flag flew on Lap 86 and the team brought Smith down pit road for tires & fuel.
Smith finished fourth in Stage 2, adding more stage points to his point total from Stage 1.
Crew chief Jeff Mendeering opted to stay out during the stage break since they pitted four laps earlier.
Stage 3 Recap (Laps 91-200)
Smith battled Kyle Busch for the lead and edged him out to take the lead on Lap 102.
The No. 18 Pilot Flying J GR Supra came down pit road under caution on Lap 143 for four tires & fuel. Smith fell two spots on pit road to third.
Smith gained the lead back from Busch again as the caution flag flew on Lap 149.
Smith endured three more restarts in the last 23 laps to maintain the lead and cross the finish line in the lead for his first career NXS victory.
Smith On His First Career Victory: What did it take to get to this point? “It was tough with all of these restarts. I just got to thank everyone on this Pilot Flying J team, TMC, Allstate Peterbuilt, Renda Group, Sinclair, Toyota, JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) guys – everybody on this 18 team that gave me an awesome car.” What did it take to get to this point in your career? “A lot of hard work and a lot of great people behind me. Without all these guys – and Pilot Flying J, TMC and Toyota, I wouldn’t be here.” What does it mean to be in victory lane in the NASCAR Xfinity Series? “It is amazing. It’s a dream come true – just thanks to Pilot Flying J, TMC, Allstate Peterbuilt Group, Renda Group, Toyota – all of the guys on the JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) team for giving me this opportunity. It is awesome.” Additional Notes
Both of Smith’s teammates finished in the top 10. Ryan Truex closed in on Smith for the lead in the closing laps and finished in second. John Hunter Nemechek overcame a couple issues during the race to finish sixth.
Next Up: The NASCAR Xfinity Series travels to Atlanta Motor Speedway next weekend. The race will be broadcast live Saturday, March 18, at 5:00 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1, PRN Radio SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, and streamed on the FOX Sports App.
About Pilot Flying J Pilot Flying J, the largest network of travel centers in North America, is committed to connecting people and places with comfort, care and a smile at every stop. The Pilot Flying J Travel Center network includes over 750 locations in 44 states and six Canadian provinces with more than 790 restaurants, 75,000 truck parking spaces, 5,300 deluxe showers, 6,200 diesel lanes and offers truck maintenance and tire service through Southern Tire Mart at Pilot Flying J. Details on locations, amenities and rewards are available in the myRewards PlusTM app. More information on Pilot Flying J is available at www.pilotflyingj.com. Pilot Flying J is part of the Pilot Company family of brands founded in 1958 and headquartered in Knoxville, Tennessee. For additional information about Pilot Company, its 30,000 team members and commitment to giving back, visit www.pilotcompany.com. About Joe Gibbs Racing: Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) is one of the premier organizations in NASCAR with four NASCAR Cup Series teams, three NASCAR Xfinity Series teams, and a driver development program. JGR is based in Huntersville, N.C., and owned by NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Joe Gibbs, who also earned his place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and was named as one of the NFL’s top 10 coaches of all-time with a winning career that included three Super Bowl Championships as head coach of the Washington franchise. JGR has competed in NASCAR since 1992, winning five Cup Series championships and six Xfinity Series owner’s championships, along with more than 350 NASCAR races, including four Brickyard 400s and four Daytona 500s.