Chandler Smith bests veterans to earn his first NASCAR Xfinity win at Richmond

RICHMOND, VIRGINIA - APRIL 01: Chandler Smith, driver of the #16 Quick Tie Products Inc. Chevrolet, takes the checkered flag to win the NASCAR Xfinity Series ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond Raceway on April 01, 2023 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo by David Jensen/Getty Images)

Chandler Smith earned his first NASCAR Xfinity win at Richmond in dominating fashion Saturday. Smith led 83 of the 250 laps in Saturday’s ToyotaCare 250, the most of any driver. He’s the second first-time winner in the Xfinity Series this season, along with Sammy Smith.

“Here we are at Richmond, my favorite racetrack, and we’re sitting in victory lane,” Smith said. “I appreciate Chris Rice, Matt Kaulig, everybody at Kaulig Racing for taking a risk and getting a young guy.”

“I just go out and try to perform each week, and take what the car will give me, and just be grateful,” he said of his philosophy. But “you can always be better, there’s always places you can improve.”

He’ll be racing again this weekend, driving the 13 car this time for Kaulig in the Cup Series. He doesn’t anticipate a repeat win though.

“I just want to finish the Cup race, to be quite honest with you. I don’t really have any expectations, I’m just really grateful for the opportunity to be racing on Sunday with Kaulig Racing. I’ll just be learning.”

John Hunter Nemechek made a desperate lunge in the final corner. He was lapped early after a bold strategy not to take tires along with then-leader Sammy Smith but fought back after earning the lucky dog and led eleven laps towards the end.

“We came from the back to battle up here. I’m just proud of everyone on this No. 20 Toyota GR Supra team for Joe Gibbs Racing,” Nemechek said.

“Disappointed to run runner-up again,” he admitted. “That is the last three races here I’ve ran second or third, frustrating. We will go back to work. We just have to figure out how to execute better. It was a good points day for us. I think we moved up a couple spots. Disappointed, but we will take it and move on to the next one.”

Josh Berry, Kaz Grala, and Cole Custer rounded out the top five. Grala drives for small team Sam Hunt Racing, and he delivered a top five at their home track.

“It means a lot,” team owner Sam Hunt said. “Especially, because it has been a tough year so far, we’ve had fast cars and things just haven’t fallen our way. We were good all day long… for this team, this group, to run with these guys and beat the cars we beat, it is special. It is really cool.”

After long green flag runs, there were three cautions for cause in the last thirty laps, starting with a car stopped on pit road and included two wrecks, one being a crash between Brandon Jones and Riley Herbst and the other Brett Moffitt spinning. Two tire failures early in the race for Joe Graf Jr. and Anthony Alfredo did not result in cautions.

Justin Allgaier won the Dash 4 Cash and earned the $100,000 cash bonus. He said he’s never been happier with a fourteenth-place finish.

His team chose to pit and lose a lap as the laps wound down, banking that the race would stay green and the rest of the field would have to pit as well. When the cautions started coming out and the rest of the field got new tires, Allgaier was forced to battle his fellow Dash 4 Cash competitors in Sammy Smith, Daniel Hemric, and Sam Mayer. All of them finished far back in the pack.

“I think for us the risk was pretty easy, we were trying to go for the win,” Allgaier said. “We felt like it was probably going to stay green, and everybody was going to have to come.”

“We still won the Dash 4 Cash. I’m not going to lie,” he admitted, “I was nervous.”

“I think we weren’t the best car today. But this was the weirdest Dash 4 Cash race I’ve ever been a part of, with all of us a lap down, it was like we all wanted to give it away.”

It’s not Allgaiers’ first time winning the Dash 4 Cash in his career, but the series veteran says it still matters.

“It is a big deal. Not only for myself, to be that guy, but also to get that money back into the race team and make us better.”

The win means that Allgaier is automatically qualified for the next Dash 4 Cash race when the Xfinity Series returns at Martinsville on April 15 (7:30 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), along with race winner Smith, Nemechek, and Berry.

Photos: NASCAR at Richmond Raceway Saturday April 1, 2023

NASCAR Xfinity Series Race Results ToyotaCare 250
Richmond Raceway
Richmond, Virginia
Saturday, April 1, 2023

1. (8) Chandler Smith #, Chevrolet, 250.
2. (10) John Hunter Nemechek, Toyota, 250.
3. (7) Josh Berry, Chevrolet, 250.
4. (21) Kaz Grala, Toyota, 250.
5. (22) Cole Custer, Ford, 250.
6. (6) Sheldon Creed, Chevrolet, 250.
7. (17) Ryan Sieg, Ford, 250.
8. (20) Parker Kligerman, Chevrolet, 250.
9. (18) Austin Hill, Chevrolet, 250.
10. (11) Derek Kraus, Chevrolet, 250.
11. (32) Alex Labbe, Chevrolet, 250.
12. (16) Jeb Burton, Chevrolet, 250.
13. (1) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 250.
14. (29) Chris Hacker(i), Ford, 250.
15. (23) Ryan Ellis, Chevrolet, 250.
16. (14) Parker Retzlaff #, Chevrolet, 250.
17. (3) Sam Mayer, Chevrolet, 250.
18. (34) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet, 250.
19. (2) Sammy Smith #, Toyota, 250.
20. (25) Kyle Sieg, Ford, 250.
21. (9) Brandon Jones, Chevrolet, 250.
22. (24) Brett Moffitt, Ford, 250.
23. (4) Riley Herbst, Ford, 250.
24. (5) Daniel Hemric, Chevrolet, 249.
25. (28) Leland Honeyman, Chevrolet, 249.
26. (27) Blaine Perkins #, Chevrolet, 248.
27. (35) Joey Gase, Toyota, 248.
28. (19) Connor Mosack, Toyota, 248.
29. (33) Patrick Emerling, Ford, 248.
30. (37) Garrett Smithley, Chevrolet, 248.
31. (38) Mason Maggio(i), Toyota, 247.
32. (36) Stefan Parsons, Chevrolet, 247.
33. (26) Josh Williams, Chevrolet, 247.
34. (30) Brennan Poole, Chevrolet, 247.
35. (31) Gray Gaulding, Ford, 245.
36. (12) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 243.
37. (15) Joe Graf Jr., Toyota, 236.
38. (13) Anthony Alfredo, Chevrolet, Accident, 144.

Average Speed of Race Winner: 86.884 mph.
Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 9 Mins, 29 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.298 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 6 for 43 laps.
Lead Changes: 10 among 7 drivers.
Lap Leaders: J. Allgaier 1-2;S. Smith # 3-42;R. Herbst 43-44;C. Smith # 45-79;R. Herbst 80-104;C. Smith # 105-140;J. Berry 141-161;B. Jones 162-185;J. Berry 186-227;J. Nemechek 228-238;C. Smith # 239-250.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Chandler Smith # 3 times for 83 laps; Josh Berry 2 times for 63 laps; Sammy Smith # 1 time for 40 laps; Riley Herbst 2 times for 27 laps; Brandon Jones 1 time for 24 laps; John Hunter Nemechek 1 time for 11 laps; Justin Allgaier 1 time for 2 laps.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 16,98,9,8,00,7,11,2,39,1

Stage #2 Top Ten: 8,9,98,16,00,26,20,48,7,2

Owen Johnson