Nextera Energy 250 Recap: Zane Smith Takes Win In Wild Finish

      They had been trying to do it all night.

After 100 intense laps at the world famous Daytona International Speedway, the drivers of the Camping World Truck Series finally ran out of luck. 

Tyler Ankrum had a huge run on the ThorSport #98 of Christian Eckes with an even bigger push from John Hunter Nemecheck but Eckes had other plans. Eckes moved up to block Ankrum, but he ended up getting in to Ankrum’s right front just slightly, and the sudden change in speed, paired with John Hunter’s massive push caused the #16 truck to spin and collect drivers like Hailee Deegan, Chandler Smith, Ty Majeski, Matt Crafton and Derek Kraus. 

When the field crossed the line at the time of caution, Zane Smith, the new driver of the Front Row Motorsports #38 was scored the leader. Smith had been up front in contention all night, and thought he had taken the win at the end of the regulation. Somewhat surprisingly, the caution came out right before the caution was triggered by race control. It was so close that when FS1 aired the replay at the finish line, Smith was dead even with the “O” in the Daytona tri-oval, and the caution light was dead even with him. 

This was the culmination of a heated night of racing, with several near-misses, close calls and insane moments. Several trucks were so sideways during the action that Race Hub’s Trevor Bayne stated that he thought the field had “wrecked ten different times.” 

After a lengthy Red Flag for cleanup, the race resumed in overtime with Eckes and his teammate, defending series champion Ben Rhodes, lined up on the inside. On the outside, Zane Smith had a surprising partner in part time driver, part time pit road reporter Parker Kligerman behind him. When the green flag fell, the #75 Food Country USA Chevrolet Silverado gave a big push to Smith who used the momentum to pass Eckes and dive in front of him coming to the final lap. 

Smith crossed the line in first, and almost as soon as he did that, Jason White and Kris Wright crashed on the front stretch, bringing an end to a very exciting first act of the 2022 season. After the race, an elated Smith told FS1, “Literally my heart hurt during that red flag. I thought we had it.” They certainly did have it once the checkered flag flew, and as always, that’s what matters most. It’s important to note, that last season, the eventual series champion won this very same race. I think Zane has a huge shot at becoming a superstar in the series. 

A great story coming out of this race is the aforementioned Parker Kligerman, who barely made the race on speed and drove all the way into contention at the end. When reporters caught up to him, he was humbled by the effort of his team, saying. “It’s just such an honor. I’m just so grateful to just show up here and compete and reel off a top-five. We’re firing on all cylinders right now.” Hopefully he can keep the momentum going for the rest of the season.

For most of the night, it was John Hunter Nemecheck who looked poised to get the victory, winning back to back stages. Even though he didn’t get the finish he wanted, that #4 looks just as fast as it did a season ago. He will certainly be in contention all year. 

The next time we see the truck drivers will be on March 4th in Las Vegas. With the show they put on tonight, I’m not sure if I can wait that long.

Photo credit to the official Twitter account of Front Row Motorsports @Team_FRM

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