Chandler Smith shines at Virginia’s Richmond Raceway on his way to maiden NASCAR Xfinity win
Chandler Smith, a Step One Motorsports Ambassador, undertook a daunting challenge at the Richmond Raceway over the weekend as he entered both the Cup and Xfinity series races back-to-back. Each series has raced on this circuit for decades, making it a staple on their respective calendars. The asphalt oval circuit is the first of the season to be considered a short track at just three-quarters of a mile (1.21 kilometers) in length. The Xfinity and Cup races each hold three stages, with the differentiator between them being that the Xfinity race is 250 laps in total while the Cup race is 400 laps from start to finish.
Competing in two distinct series within a single weekend demands exceptional endurance and razor-sharp focus. Smith, a driver who exudes a strong sense of determination, displayed his relentless commitment to the sport by taking on this challenge. NASCAR Xfinity had no practice or qualifying due to inclement weather, meaning Smith lined up in P6 based on a metric set by the series. He was undaunted by the lack of track time, quickly making up places from the wave of the green flag. Within the first stage, he took the lead of the race, impressively lapping the race’s pole-sitter before the stage was complete. Smith secured the stage one win, a first for the Kaulig Racing driver.
Further into the race, after a pit stop and intentional tire conservation, Smith took advantage of an incident between two cars ahead and regained the lead, displaying incredible awareness and quick reaction times to avoid getting caught up in the chaos. The end of stage two saw Smith in P4, a position he held after receiving fresh tires and fuel. Smith kept himself in the top five, being advised not to overdrive by his team as he found himself within reach of the race leader. He took the lead with just nine laps to go, surviving a race restart a few laps later, and officially became a NASCAR Xfinity race winner with a lead of 0.298 seconds at the checkered flag.
Smith was understandably emotional post-race, celebrating in classic NASCAR style with a burnout near the start-finish line before joining his Kaulig Racing team. In a race weekend with no track time other than the race itself, Smith demonstrated his racing prowess and fortuitous strength to take his number 16 Chevrolet up to the top step of the podium.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series stays in the state of Virginia for its next round, heading to Martinsville Speedway where Smith will compete on 14-15 April.