Friday, March 4, 2022

TRUCKS: Lugnut violation negates spirited runner-up finish for Zane Smith

IMAGE: Front Row Motorsports

Zane Smith picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Friday’s Victoria’s Voice Foundation 200 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway when his #38 Michael Roberts Construction Ford finished 2nd, only to be disqualified after completing all 134 laps.

This marked Smith’s first last-place finish of the season and first since February 19, 2021, 22 races ago. In the Truck Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 6th from disqualification, the 16th for the #38, and the 113th for Ford. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 46th from disqualification, the 55th for the #38, and the 983rd for Ford.

Blaine Perkins picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Friday’s Victoria’s Voice Foundation 200 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway when his #9 Raceline Chevrolet was eliminated under the Damaged Vehicle Policy (DVP) after 21 of 134 laps.

The finish came in Perkins’ 2nd series start. In the Truck Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 2nd by the DVP, the 10th for the #9, and the 418th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 5th under the DVP, the 57th for the #9, and the 1,823rd for Chevrolet.

With returning sponsorship from Michael Roberts Construction, Smith took deliberate steps to follow-up his victory this year’s Daytona opener. Coming off a late-race pass by Ben Rhodes that saw him fall short of the 2021 series championship, Smith rode the draft of Parker Kligerman during a late-race pass of his own. At Las Vegas, he ranked 8th in practice, then took 6th in qualifying with a lap of 176.985mph (30.511 seconds).

At first, Friday’s last-place finisher was Blaine Perkins, who began the weekend ranked 29th of the 37 entrants in practice, then qualified 30th with a lap of 173.232mph (31.172 seconds). Unapproved adjustments would drop Perkins’ #9 Raceline Chevrolet to the rear along with Jordan Anderson in the #3 Dometic Chevrolet, back in the show after his surprising DNQ in Daytona.

Originally, the one truck to be sent home was that of Matt Jaskol, who had struggled with his #47 Toyota for the second-straight race. This time, Jaskol swapped rides with G2G Racing teammate Brennan Poole, who had qualified the unsponsored black #46 Toyota in 33rd. While swapped out of Friday’s race, Poole would be able to make his XFINITY debut on Saturday, having bounced back from a DNQ of his own to secure Mike Harmon Racing their first start of the season. The driver change sent Jaskol to the back along with Anderson and Perkins.

When the field took the green flag, the 36th spot had returned to Loris Hezemans, who was making his series debut. Hezemans turned in the slowest lap of the session in an unsponsored #33 Toyota for Reaume Brothers Racing, placing him last on the inside line. By Lap 2, he’d climbed past Jaskol and opened up a half-second advantage two circuits later. The gap between the two trucks stabilized at six-tenths of a second until Lap 10, when Jaskol cut the gap in half. Hezemans regained a half-second gap on Lap 12, but the next time by, Jaskol had drawn to within 0.238 of a second. By Lap 19, the leaders had caught both Jaskol and Hezemans, who began to race for position. Jaskol was lapped first, but as the leaders lapped Hezemans in the tri-oval, the two were side-by-side with Jaskol furthest down on the apron. Jaskol cleared the #33 on Lap 20, just moments before the caution fell.

Blaine Perkins, meanwhile, had already found trouble. On Lap 16, NASCAR reported his #9 had a left-rear fender rub. The damage was the result of a stack-up in Turn 2 where he was pinned between two other trucks, one of which slammed into his rear bumper. As the race stayed green, the smoke appeared to go away, so he kept rolling. Then disaster struck. On Lap 21, the left-rear tire blew in Turn 2, sending him into the outside wall. He hit first with the left-rear, then the left-front, and limped onto pit road. Perkins took last from Hezemans on Lap 23 as the #9 crew told their driver to shut off the engine. The crew attempted to push in the bodywork near the fuel filler, and with one minute left on the “Crash Clock” prepared to return to the race. Perkins re-fired the engine as the crew hurriedly changed the right-front tire and removed a block of wood from the front splitter. “If it’s way off and you can’t drive it, just park it,” the team told him. “It’s a brand-new truck.” Perkins returned to the track, but the crew quickly realized the fender was still rubbing and called him back in. The crew pulled the fender and sent the #9 back on track, only for NASCAR to relay that their “Crash Clock” had expired. Perkins returned to pit road and pulled behind the wall. “Sorry, guys,” he said. “Not sure how we could have missed that.”

Colby Howard originally finished 35th, his #91 Gates Hydraulics Chevrolet eliminated in a Turn 1 pileup on the restart following Perkins’ caution. Among those involved was Hailie Deegan, whose #1 Monster Energy Ford cleared the “Crash Clock” and returned to the garage for further repairs, only to drop out after 44 laps. Jack Wood suffered right-front damage after a hard hit in his #24 Chevrolet Truck Month Chevrolet, and Ben Rhodes suffered an even bigger hit on the frontstretch off the nose of teammate Ty Majeski. Rhodes had led 9 laps in his unsponsored #99 Toyota while Majeski finished 11th.

Things then changed after 10:00 P.M. Pacific, when NASCAR reported Zane Smith had been disqualified for lug nuts that did not conform to specifications. This negated a strong race where Smith overcame fender damage to lead with two laps to go, only for Chandler Smith to make the winning pass off Turn 2. The 2nd-place finish would have kept him 2nd in the series standings, just six points back of Chandler Smith’s team. Instead, Zane took 36th with Perkins moved to the 35th spot, bumping Ben Rhodes out of the Bottom Five and Jordan Anderson out of the Bottom Ten.

Bret Holmes earned an 8th-place finish in his #32 Holmes II Excavation Chevrolet, climbing from 32nd on the grid to earn his first career top-ten finish in his ninth Truck Series start. Three spots behind him came Daytona last-place finisher Dean Thompson, who this time took 11th in Al Niece’s #40 Worldwide Express Chevrolet.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #38 in a Truck Series race since June 7, 2013, when Johnny Chapman scored his then-record 14th last-place finish in RSS Racing’s #38 Chevrolet had ignition issues after 6 laps at Texas.

36) #38-Zane Smith / 134 laps / disqualified / led 15 laps
35) #9-Blaine Perkins / 21 laps / dvp
34) #91-Colby Howard / 28 laps / crash
33) #1-Hailie Deegan / 44 laps / crash
32) #24-Jack Wood / 71 laps / crash

1st) Front Row Motorsports, Niece Motorsports (1)

1st) Chevrolet, Ford (1)


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