Zane Smith wins Camping World Trucks NASCAR race in Kansas
Zane Smith knew what it took to lead laps at Kansas Speedway. But that never translated into capturing the final lap…until Saturday night.
Smith ended three years of frustration at Kansas by dominating the final 111 laps and after a tense restart, winning the Camping World Trucks Heart of America 200.
Prior to Saturday, the 22-year-old Smith had led 50 laps in the 2020 spring race at Kansas and finished ninth. He led 37 laps in the fall race and finished 11th. He led 17 laps in 2019 and finished sixth.
But there was no catching Smith this time. Smith snatched the lead from Corey Heim on lap 38 and would lead a career-best 108 of 134 laps for his third series-leading victory of the season.
“It was mine to lose,” said Smith, in his first season at the wheel of the No. 38 Front Row Motorsports Ford. “These races look like fun, but they really aren’t fun mentally.”
Smith was coasting with a 5-second lead with 13 laps to go when the engine of rookie Dean Thompson’s Chevrolet blew up, forcing a late warning.
The leaders – Smith, poleman John Hunter Nemechek, Ty Majeski and Chandler Smith – all decided to stay on track for the final restart. Smith, the only driver to win multiple trucks this season, quickly took off and beat Majeski by a comfortable 1.653 seconds.
“I feel like I should have a few since I’ve been here,” said Smith, holding Kansas Speedway’s distinctive trophy. “Anything in NASCAR is hard to close. Truck racing is crazy. I’ve been on both sides. They just never get over…even with two to go, I thought, ‘He’s going there. have a caveat.”
“This late restart scared me a bit; luckily we didn’t have another, as I was stuck in fourth position. I really like coming to this place. I’ve been looking for a 1.5 mile win for a while now, and it looks like it. They took a few from me. I thought maybe the reboot at the end of the race was going to be another one.
Majeski, whose second place finish in the No. 66 Toyota was a career high, was followed by Grant Finallyger in the No. 23 Chevrolet and Chandler Smith in the No. 18 Toyota.
Smith, of Huntington Beach, Calif., has not only won three races this season, but the victories have come at three separate tracks – the Daytona superspeedway, the Austin road course and the 1.5-mile intermediate tri-oval of Kansas.
Smith thinks he should have already won on a 1.5 mile track but was disqualified due to an illegal wheel nut in the second race of the season in Las Vegas.
“I said (to crew chief) Chris Lawson after Vegas when I was pretty discouraged, because we had such a good truck, but I said to him, ‘If we bring what we had to Vegas, he there was no reason we couldn’t win in Kansas.’ I’m super excited because we’re coming here in the playoffs, and this one is even more important to win.
Smith had an idea it would be a good night for him during driver introductions when he had a chat with Nemechek, who was fresh off a win at Darlington.
“People were asking him how his truck was doing, and they were asking me, and John Hunter said to me, he only cares about me, and I could say the same about him,” Smith said. “But you really don’t know, especially practicing in the heat of the day and racing at night.
“I feel like I’ve improved a lot on the 1.5 mile tracks over the past two years, and I love going there, and I really love coming to Kansas.”
Nemechek’s opinion of Smith did not change after the race.
“The 38,” Nemechek said, “was the dominant truck in the race.”
This story was originally published May 14, 2022 8:57 p.m.