Zane Smith picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Friday’s BrakeBest Brake Pads 159 presented by O’Reilly at the Daytona Infield Road Course when his #21 Chevy.com / Chevy Accessories Chevrolet was involved in a multi-truck accident after 35 of 51 laps.
The finish came in Smith’s 26th series start. In the Truck Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 10th for the #21, the 164th from a crash, and the 401st for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 38th for the #21, the 1,238th from a crash, and the 1,762nd for Chevrolet.
The last time Smith finished this low in a Truck Series race marked a key turning point in his career. The runner-up to Sheldon Creed in the 2018 ARCA Menards Series Championship, Smith impressed in his ten-race XFINITY Series stint for JR Motorsports, finishing Top Ten in seven of them with a pair of 5th-place runs. Last year, he landed a full-time ride in the Truck Series for GMS Racing in the #21 Chevrolet. But even with the help of longtime sponsor LaPaz Margarita Mix, he arrived in Homestead in an unsponsored truck. That day, he was collected in a wreck with his teammates, and finished next-to-last.
Later that summer, Smith pulled off his first Truck Series victory at Michigan, then followed it up two rounds later with another win at Dover. He made it all the way to the Championship 4 at Phoenix, where – as in ARCA – he came up just one spot short of Sheldon Creed. In between, he also made some daring moves on the track, including a pass on the apron at Charlotte. Now a proven talent in NASCAR’s top three series, Smith entered 2021 with a 16th-place finish in the Daytona opener, and looked for more on the road course. There, Smith drew the 11th starting spot in the first 2021 field set by metric qualifying. With 40-truck fields allowed during events without qualifying, the CMI Motorsports teammates of Roger Reuse and Tim Viens were forced to withdraw.
Rolling off 40th and last on Friday was 21-year-old Lawless Alan, who along with 35tyh-place Jett Noland and 22nd-place Parker Chase was one of three drivers making their first start in any of NASCAR’s top three series. Of the group, Alan had perhaps the least experience, having run a combined five ARCA Menards Series and ARCA Menards West Series races last year, and just two regional races the year before. Alan’s ride would be the second of two trucks fielded by Reaume Brothers Racing, a #34 Toyota sponsored by Autoparkit.com.
On the pace laps, at least two other drivers dropped to the rear before the start. Norm Benning, the defending LASTCAR Truck Series Champion, was already set to roll off 39th in the #6 MDF A Sign Company Chevrolet, but was classified behind Alan on the initial start. Dropping further back was 13th-place Bobby Reuse, driving for the Jordan Anderson Racing team that finished runner-up last week. Reuse’s #3 I Heart Mac & Cheese Chevrolet was seen bringing up the rear by the time the field entered the backstretch chicane prior to the initial start. He was still negotiating the frontstretch chicane when the leaders took the green flag.
Last place quickly changed hands in the first corner. There, 12th-place starter Raphael Lessard spun his #24 Canac Chevrolet, causing the back half of the field to scatter. Reuse pulled past Benning, who stopped for a moment as Lessard turned his truck the right way. Benning then got going again, dropping Lessard to last. By the end of the first lap, Lessard had re-passed Benning, who complained that his truck had no rear grip. The stop had dropped Benning a full 7.952 seconds back of Reuse by the end of that lap, and the drivers from 36th on back were already some distance behind the rest of the leaders.
|Jason White on pit road early for brake issue|
PHOTO: Matt Miller, @MGMiller17
On Lap 3, Benning passed the other Reaume Brothers entry, the #33 Powder Ventures Excavating Chevrolet, driven for a second-straight week by Canadian racer Jason White. White missed the backstretch chicane and had to serve a stop-and-go penalty, which dropped him to last, 2.662 seconds back of Benning. This was likely due to a brake problem that White had since the initial start, when his pedal suddenly went to the floor. White still managed to pass a struggling Bobby Reuse on Lap 4, but Reuse got by again two laps later. By then, White had missed the backstretch chicane again, and the brake issue had worsened. Because of the wet track, the team was unable to find where the brake fluid was leaking from, and the driver knew he’d soon have to go behind the wall.
White, Benning, and several other teams were also admonished by NASCAR for not keeping their rear brake lights illuminated during wet conditions. White soon discovered that the team had wired his brake fans to the same circuit as the windshield wiper and brake light, meaning that when he switched off the fans, both wiper and light stopped working. When he discovered this issue on Lap 8, he shouted, “We’ve gotta be more professional than this!” On Lap 9, White pulled behind the wall. When he returned, he would have to serve a pass-through penalty for his second time missing the backstretch chicane. The team also had difficulty guiding White to the right entrance to the garage.
On Lap 14, White’s crew reported they found the source of the leak, and the driver re-fired the engine. He hustled around the track to catch the tail end of the field for the restart to begin Stage 2. By then, he was eight laps down with no other drivers in the garage area, and few others off the lead lap. White served his pass-through penalty after the first green-flag lap, and wanted to pit for more adjustments. He couldn’t, as this meant he’d have to serve the penalty on another stop, and he had to wait for the rest of the field to go by before he re-entered the track.
By the 18th circuit, White was again told his brake light was off, and for the first time was told he wasn’t maintaining minimum speed. This speed had been adjusted by NASCAR on Lap 3, when it was set to 164.26 seconds. White lost another lap, and was told he’d be parked if he didn’t get the brake light issue resolved. He made another pit stop on Lap 21, but still the brake light wouldn’t stay on. The Lap 23 caution for a stalled John Hunter Nemechek allowed him to regroup, and by Lap 25, he reported he had half of his brake pressure back. When he hit the brake pedal, however, the truck pulled hard to the left. Now 10 laps down, White decided to try and baby his truck to the finish, though he knew it was unlikely he’d gain any positions by the end of the originally scheduled distance on Lap 44. On Lap 29, with the damp track continuing to dry, NASCAR announced teams no longer had to run the rear brake light.
That same time by, Lawless Alan pulled his truck behind the wall, complaining of a power steering leak. At the time, he was still on the lead lap. Two laps later, the caution fell for Niece Motorsports teammates Ryan Truex and Carson Hocevar, who along with Timothy Peters collided at the tight exit of pit road. All three returned to the race, though Truex incurred a two-lap penalty for too many crew members fixing crash damage. The trio were followed by Alan on Lap 34. With the power steering issue addressed, Alan reported the steering wheel “stumbles at the center,” which the team assured him would improve. With that, Alan returned to action five laps ahead of his teammate White, the pair running 39th and 40th.
Zane Smith didn’t enter the last-place battle until Lap 36, when he was still running in the Top 10. Coming off the fourth corner on the inside of a three-wide battle with Brett Moffitt and Johnny Sauter, Smith pulled left and crossed the nose of Moffitt, putting him head-on into the outside wall. Smith drove straight through the frontstretch chicane and stopped on the apron, his truck done for the day. With eight laps to go in regulation, White was still ten down, set to take last place by a two-lap margin. But that changed when the race went into its third overtime.
Thus, on Lap 46, Smith passed White, taking over last place. In fact, White managed to catch one more driver – Spencer Boyd, whose #20 Credit MRI Chevrolet fell out with transmission issues on Lap 41. Alan also passed Boyd, plus eventual 37th-place Sam Mayer, whose #75 Chevrolet Silverado Chevrolet dug into the muddy grass and ripped the splitter, causing a terminal oil leak. Alan finished 36th, within two laps of Jennifer Jo Cobb’s #10 Fastener Supply Co. Chevrolet.
The race ended up lasting for nearly three hours, but still resulted in some impressive runs for some of the series’ underdogs.
Taking 9th was Timmy Hill, making his first Truck Series start of the year in his unsponsored #56 Chevrolet. Hill climbed from 34th on the grid, and moved from 10th to 9th on the final restart, kicking off a triple-header weekend on the road course.
Camden Murphy earned the Lucky Dog under the night’s sixth caution on Lap 40 and capitalized, climbing from 37th on the grid to finish 13th in NEMCO Motorsports’ appropriately sponsored #8 WreckfestGame.com Chevrolet. Murphy’s first Truck start since last summer at Bristol became his new career-best, improving on his 17th-place finish for D.J. Copp at Las Vegas in 2017.
Dawson Cram started even further back in 38th, and in just the ninth start for his start-up team earned a 17th-place finish. This equaled his 17th-place showing for MAKE Motorsports in his series debut at Martinsville in 2018, and was just four spots shy of his career-best 13th – also at Martinsville – in the fall of 2019.
*This marked the first last-place finish for the #21 in a Truck Series race since April 2, 2016, when Johnny Sauter’s #21 Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff Chevrolet – also fielded by GMS Racing - crashed after 43 laps of the Alpha Energy Solutions 250 at Martinsville.
THE BOTTOM FIVE
40) #21-Zane Smith / 35 laps / crash
39) #20-Spencer Boyd / 38 laps / transmission
38) #33-Jason White / 41 laps / running
37) #75-Sam Mayer / 41 laps / crash
36) #34-Lawless Alan / 45 laps / running
2021 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) GMS Racing, Niece Motorsports (1)
2021 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (2)
2021 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP