By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
All the talk during Tuesday’s North Carolina Education Lottery 200 was about the much anticipated $100,000 bounty battle between race winner Chase Elliott and the man he needed to beat which was Kyle Busch. However, third-place Zane Smith made some impressive noise of his own at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
As Elliott went on to win the 134-lap NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series race, Smith had the breakthrough race he has hoped for with a record-tying 40 trucks on the grid taking the green flag.
Although he already had a top-five finish from his series debut race at Gateway in 2018 and a pair of fifth-place runs in the Xfinity Series last year, it was this race that proved his potential.
Not only Smith led 15 laps, he also made some daring moves on the track which included an unforgettable three-wide pass for second over Busch and former series champion Johnny Sauter with 23 laps to go.
We'd like to introduce you to @zanesmith77.
— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) May 27, 2020
Busch would ultimately get by the GMS Racing rookie driver but it was nonetheless an outstanding night that wore him out as Tuesday marked the first Truck Series race in 94 days.
“That was definitely fun. I can tell you one thing, I’m worn out,” said Smith. “If you’re going to lose to two guys, those are two good ones.”
The 20-year-old Californian congratulated his temporary teammate Elliott on earning the grand prize ($50,000 apiece from both Kevin Harvick and Marcus Lemonis) that’ll go to a COVID-19 charity of his choice.
“Props to Chase. That’s pretty cool that he won some dough tonight,” Smith on Elliott’s win.
Following Smith’s initial compliment, he was humbled about the strong result that saw its attrition and insane saves all race long.
“A huge thank you to LaPaz Margarita Mix and everybody that’s gotten me to this point,” said Smith. “I’ve always wanted to race in the top level here and I’ve never thought I would be in the No. 21 truck for GMS Racing. They gave me an amazing truck tonight. We miss you fans. It was just an awesome night.”
Smith’s career-best national touring finish propelled him from sixth to a tie with Suater for second in the regular season standings going into Atlanta Motor Speedway for the running of the Vet Tix/Camping World 200 June 6.