The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series took on the left and right turns of Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas on Saturday. It was a combination of regulars, first-timers, and upper-series guys in a close battle for the first road course win of the year.
With practice and qualifying returning for the 2022 season, it was a dash to the pole for all 36 entries. In the weekend’s only practice session, it was Xfinity Series driver Sheldon Creed on top with Cup regular Kyle Busch, reigning winner Chandler Smith, Parker Kligerman, and John Hunter Nemechek rounding out the top-five.
Creed continued his dominance in qualifying, earning the pole with a 134.924 lap time. He was followed up by the 38 of Zane Smith, 7 of Cup regular Alex Bowman, 75 of Parker Kligerman, and 51 of Kyle Busch.
The 43 Reaume Brothers Racing Toyota saw a brand new driver this week with Rackley mechanic and Spec Miata driver Brad Pérez making his NASCAR debut. He finished 35th in practice and posted a 32nd place qualifying lap, but was sent to the rear for unapproved adjustments.
14 drivers were sent to the rear for the start of the race due to unapproved adjustments while the 88 of Matt Crafton was forced to serve a pass-through penalty at the start. The 66 of Ty Majeski also had problems at the start, forcing him to pit during the pace laps.
As the green flag flew shortly after 1 p.m., it was Bowman and Smith on the front row after Creed was forced to start from the rear. As early as lap two, the 51 of Busch would take the lead and hold it for the majority of the stage. Creed’s bad luck would continue early in the race as he was forced behind the wall with mechanical issues at lap three. At lap five, the 1 of Hailie Deegan was penalized for cutting the course at the esses and was forced to serve a pass through.
Most decided to pit a few laps before the stage end and forfeit the points including the 51 of leader Kyle Busch who could not earn points anyways. A lot of regulars decided to stay out and compete for the valuable stage points, including the 38 of Zane Smith. By staying out, he was able to hold off the rest of the field and take the green and white checkered flag for the stage win.
As Smith pitted at the stage break, the 51 of Busch regained the lead. It would be himself and the 75 of Parker Kligerman on the front row for the restart with Busch holding onto the lead. The caution came out on the same lap as the 40 of Dean Thompson was stopped on the track in Turn 8. The restart once again saw Busch and Kligerman on the front row.
At lap 20, the 88 of Crafton was struck by the 61 of Chase Purdy and spun into the gravel, bringing out another caution. Most pitted at the break with the 16 of Tyler Ankrum getting sent to the rear for equipment interference. This time, it was the 4 of John Hunter Nemechek in the lead with the 38 of Smith by his side for the restart. Nemechek pitted before the stage break, but was penalized for an uncontrolled tire. Smith took the green and white checkered again, sweeping the stages.
The restart saw Busch and the 18 of teammate Chandler Smith at the front with the 38 in 16th, the first with new tires. Shortly after the green flag dropped, the 24 of Jack Wood and 44 of Kris Wright got into each other while the 1 of Hailie Deegan was stopped with damage. The caution came out again, with Busch and C. Smith at the front again.
Up to eighth at the restart, the 38 of Z. Smith took a spin after contact with the 98 of Christian Eckes, while Wright spun again trying to avoid them. Smith pitted along with the 17 of Taylor Gray, putting Kyle Busch and 42 of Carson Hocevar at the front for the restart. With two to go, the 46 of Matt Jaskol was stalled on track while Eckes was spun by Hocevar, forcing overtime.
For the first attempt, it was Busch and the 7 of Bowman at the front. It wouldn’t take long before the caution was brought out again, this time for Wright, the 61 of Purdy, 02 of Kaz Grala, and 91 of Colby Howard all taking a spin. The second attempt saw the same front row with a tight battle between Bowman, Busch, and the 52 of Stewart Friesen. As the three made contact, Smith took the lead and was able to hold off the field for his second victory of 2022.
The rest of the top-five was filled out by Nemechek, Busch, the 99 of Ben Rhodes, and the 18 of Chandler Smith. In his debut, Brad Pérez earned a top-20 with his 20th place finish. The Truck Series will next take on Martinsville Speedway at 8 p.m. on Thursday, April 7th.
Featured photo from @NASACR_Trucks on Twitter.