By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
PHOENIX – Defending Lucas Oil 150 winner Chandler Smith is in a spot to bring Kyle Busch Motorsports another NASCAR Camping World Truck Series title.
However, Friday’s truck race (10:00 p.m. ET on FS1) will also be bittersweet for the 20-year-old. It’ll be his final race for not just KBM, but ending a six-year relationship with the TRD family. Smith will move up to the Xfinity Series on a full-time basis in 2023, driving for Kaulig Racing’s No. 16 team.
Therefore, a lot of reflection comes into play knowing one memorable chapter will end after the 150-lap contest.
“They have done so much for me. I’ve been a TRD driver for six plus years now. They have gotten me to where I am and have supported me in everything – my highs and lows, for sure,” Smith commented during Thursday’s Championship 4 Media Day.
“They have been really supportive, but I got the opportunity of a lifetime that I couldn’t turn down. They said we will support you in that and that gives me even more respect for them. At the end of the day, they are always going to be family regardless of if they are Toyota, Chevy and Ford. They are always going to be family to me all of those individuals.”
As much as winning last year at Phoenix helps Smith’s odds of being a title threat, he doesn’t see it that way.
What he has control is how he’ll navigate around the one-mile track. Anything else that happens, it’s out of his control, especially how the trucks race. Stuff happens that could either help his changes of winning or fall apart real quick.
“I can’t control what goes on other than I drive race cars. I drive them. I can’t control if bolt gets less loose leaving the race shop and we go into turn one at Phoenix and we stuff it in the fence. I can’t control that and that can dictate the rest of the weekend,” Smith explained.
“I know we should have a fast truck, but I wouldn’t say it necessarily – if we get to Phoenix, we are going to win. Definitely not. There are way too many variables in making everything go full circle than just that.”
Should Smith end up going back-to-back at Phoenix and win the championship, it’ll cap off an incredible tenure that consisted of five Truck Series wins, three of those taking place this season.
“We probably should have five or six. Should’ve been our count, but circumstances did line up or whatever it may have been, but I feel just like the raw speed week-in and week-out,” Smith on his season.
“We have the consistency. I don’t know if I would say we are a championship caliber team – I don’t know what defines a championship caliber team. It is being mistake-less. We are human, we are going to make mistakes. I would just say that we have been consistent, and it has paid us dividends.”
As to how much it’ll mean for Smith to cap off his time with KBM and Toyota with a double W, it’ll be an amazing feeling for him.
“Trusting the process – a whole two years from being at the bottom and kind of stairsteps to the top a little bit and that was just by faith. If that is what the case is tomorrow, what a testimony,” said Smith. “That’s what having faith in the Lord – that’s the outcome. That alone would mean more to me than winning the championship – being a testimony and an example.”
Regardless of the outcome on what’s expected to be a cold Friday night, it’ll be just like any other race.
“I feel like if I treated anything different, it’s just not me,” said Smith. “I gotta go out there and perform like we usually do and hopefully everything lines up.”