By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Correspondent
BRISTOL, Tenn. – Chandler Smith was just one spot shy of becoming a playoff spoiler in the UNO200 at the age of 17.
The Kyle Busch Motorsports driver dueled with defending NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Champion Brett Moffitt on the final two restarts. Moffitt got the better of Smith’s No. 51 IBuyPower Toyota Tundra on the lap 190 restart at Bristol Motor Speedway. A caution four laps later gave the young driver a second chance.
Smith lined up alongside Moffitt. He held his own on the outside for over a lap before the lack of grip left him sliding backwards. Smith then had to battle Ross Chastain coming to the checkered flag. That duo beat and banged coming to the checkered. When the sparks subsided, Smith prevailed to take second place over Chastain.
“The first restart, that we had right there when we were side-by-side Moffitt got me pretty good,” Smith explained. “Then on the second try, I think we got him pretty good there. He was just a little better than us. We’ll get him next time.”
The speed in the KBM No. 51 was evident throughout the night. Smith, who started seventh, never fell out of the top-10 on the running order. He finished the first stage in fifth and the second stage in third. Smith battled many Truck Series regulars, including playoff grid drivers throughout the night.
For much of the night, Smith battled with Matt Crafton. The veteran racer was on the newcomer’s heels. The two drivers traded paint multiple times in the first two stages of the race.
“Overall our IBuyPower Toyota Tundra was really good tonight,” Smith admitted. “We just struggled a bit and didn’t have that little bit to be up there celebrating right now. Good learning night, good night for the 51 crew, Rudy (Fugle), KBM, and ultimately a good night for us.”
The runner-up finish was the second top-five for Smith and came in just his third start. In all three of his starts to date, he has earned top-10 finishes.
The top-five also matches the best finish for KBM’s ‘All-Star’ truck, second at Chicagoland Speedway with Brandon Jones, since Greg Biffle won at Texas Motor Speedway. It is the 10th top-five for the No. 51 this season.