By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor
TALLADEGA, Alabama – It may have taken multiple overtimes to do it, but the General Tire 200 at Talladega delivered a finish for the ages as Zane Smith and Joseph Graf, Jr. crossed the finish line door to door, with Smith edging out Graf for his second win of the season.
The finish, which took a photo to determine the winner, showed .000 on the final leaderboard and is being called the closest finish in ARCA Racing Series history.
“It’s awesome, to win like that,” said Smith. “To be honest, I didn’t know I had won. My spotter came over the radio and finally told me. At that point, my arms and legs were literally shaking inside the car. I get to work with best team in the garage…all the guys at MDM Motorsports…my sponsor LaPaz Margarita Mix. I get to work with Mardy Lindley, the best crew chief anywhere. In the last three races, we’ve finished first, second and first. I’m beyond pumped for this year.
“I had the 28 (Sheldon Creed) behind me. He gave me an awesome shove down the backstretch. He lifted me right off the ground. I was just sawing at the wheel all the way down the backstretch. I have the best people behind me in the world. It’s so cool. My whole family is here…my girlfriend’s with me. This couldn’t be better.”
Though Smith came away the winner, the story of the race may be that Graf finished second while driving with a broken foot. Graf noted in his post-race media availability that he has had a broken foot for close to three weeks now, but even that was not going to stop him from racing.
“We had a great car,” said Graf. “I felt like we could get it done from the start. Michael (Self) pushed me all the way down the backstretch. I definitely learned a lot today. Thanks to Chad Bryant Racing and Big Tine for making this happen. I’ll be better next time I come back. My first time racing here, but I’ve loved this track since I was a kid. I really thought I had won it. My spotter thought so too.”
Following Smith and Graf to the line was polesitter Michael Self, points leader Sheldon Creed, and Josh Williams rounding out the top-five.
Creed looked to have the race in the bag as he led the most laps in the race and was out front in the closing laps, but after a caution pushed the race into the first overtime, things went awry for Creed as the race crawled toward the finish.
In that first overtime, two crashes in the final lap would bring out the yellow as the field was almost back to the start/finish line, taking the race into another overtime finish, which would be Creed’s downfall as he lost the lead on the subsequent restart and was never able to make his way back into the lead.
The fourth-place result is Creed’s worst finish of the year as he still seeks his elusive first ARCA win.
The race, which eventually stretched 12 laps past its scheduled distance to 87 laps, featured seven cautions for 38 laps including the red flag in the first overtime session. In that multi-car crash, the two drivers that felt the brunt of it were Chase Purdy and Bo LeMastus, with both making heavy contact with the outside SAFER barrier. Purdy, who climbed out under his own power, was transported, conscious and alert, to an area hospital for observation.