No Longer the Bridesmaid – Zane Smith is a Champion!

Ben Rhodes. Ty Majeski. Zane Smith. Chandler Smith. Those are the four young drivers that headed to Phoenix Raceway for the final race of the 2022 season with championship hopes intact. They survived and advanced through the grueling playoff schedule, and now have a chance to battle it out for the top honor in our sport’s third most prestigious series.

The path to the championship has been different for all four drivers.
Ben Rhodes – The defending series champion who has struggled to find speed at times throughout year, but prevailed nonetheless, and finds himself on the cusp of a repeat.
Ty Majeski – Who had to point his way into the playoffs, but has been on a tear since they started, winning two of the last three races, his first two career wins.
Zane Smith – Tied for the series lead in wins with three, who finds himself in the Championship Four for the third straight year, looking to finally summit the peak after finishing second both of his last two trips.
Chandler Smith – The other driver with three wins, in his second full time season, the lone KBM driver in the playoffs, who gives the team a chance to bring one last championship to Toyota.

Ultimately, Zane Smith would finally get it done, picking up his first career championship after two consecutive runner-up finishes. Smith is an appropriate champion as one of the dominant drivers of the 2022 season.

Ben Rhodes would narrowly miss out on a shot at becoming a repeat champion, coming home second. With that said, he very easily could have simply driven through Zane Smith in the final corner of he last lap, but chose to race him clean – so big respect to Ben Rhodes. He’ll be back.

As the 2022 season comes to a close, we’re reminded that the Truck Series is, at it’s core, a developmental series. While some of the names will remain the same next season – including Zane Smith, who will return to the series in 2023 to defend his title – plenty of the names will change as many of these young drivers move up the ladder in pursuit of the ultimate goal of reaching the NASCAR Cup Series.


Zane Smith led the field to green, flanked to his outside in surprising fashion by Layne Riggs – son of former driver Scott Riggs, making only his third career start for Halmar Friesen Racing. Corey Heim & Tanner Gray would make up row two, followed by Stewart Friesen and Ben Rhodes. Ty Majeski would start in eighth, while the final championship four contender – Chandler Smith – would start in 12th.

At the drop of the green Layne Riggs would power his way to the lead ahead of Zane Smith, leading until lap eight when Smith would re-take it. Immediately following the pass, Keith McGee and Armani Williams would get together – with both trucks taking heavy damage – and bring out the first caution.

The green flag waved again on lap 14 with Zane Smith jumping to the lead. Coming out of turn one on the restart, playoff driver Ty Majeski made fairly significant contact with Grant Enfinger, falling all the way back to 11th, but all told avoiding possible disaster. Meanwhile, Zane Smith jumped out to a full second lead over Corey Heim, while Ben Rhodes ran fifth and Chandler Smith ran in the back end of the top-10.

The field would make it to the end of the first stage without further incident, with Zane Smith collecting the stage win. Ben Rhodes would finish the stage in p6, Chandler Smith in p8, and Ty Majeski in p11 – the last of whom never truly recovered from his incident on the restart, and indicated in communications with his team that his truck was running hot.

Stage break pit stops saw Zane Smith suffer from a slow pit stop that cost him the lead, as Corey Heim and John Hunter Nemechek would win the race off pit road. Chandler Smith had a great stop in the meantime, picking up four spots all the way up to p4, and Ty Majeski would exit the pits in p6 after having a great stop of his own. Ben Rhodes however would suffer from a poor stop, falling all the way to p10. Meanwhile, Christian Eckes had a big problem on pit road, as his left front tire got jammed up, forcing him to ride around the track throwing up a huge cloud of sparks.

Stage two went green, with Chandler and Zane Smith fighting for the championship lead in p3. Zane would eventually prevail, and set his sights on John Hunter Nemechek for the race lead. Meanwhile, Carson Hocevar would be penalized with a pass-through penalty for cutting below the yellow line on the restart.

While he would have trouble catching Nemechek, Zane would jump out to a nearly three second lead over Chandler by lap 75, with Ty Majeski running in sixth, and Ben Rhodes mired back in 10th.

With 10 to go in the stage and Nemechek fighting through lapped traffic, Zane Smith was able to catch him and challenge for the lead. After fighting hard for the final 10 laps of the stage, Smith would eventually prevail with two to go, and go on to win the second stage. Chandler Smith would wind up p3, two seconds back, Majeski would finish p5, and Ben Rhodes would round out the championship contenders in a disappointing p10.

Stage break pit stops saw Zane Smith suffer from another bad stop, losing three spots back to p4. Chandler Smith meanwhile would have another good stop, jumping up to p2, and taking the championship lead. Ty Majeski would come off p5, while Ben Rhodes would have a phenomenal stop and pick up four spots all the way up to p6.

The race went back green for the final stage with 51 to go. Almost immediately, however, Christian Eckes would have another problem and spin off the front bumper of Tyler Ankrum into the turn one outside wall, making heavy contact, but only collecting one additional truck – the 24 of Jack Wood.

The green would come back out with 45 to go, but again the caution would fly almost immediately as Layne Riggs would get into the back of Tanner Gray, sending him up into the 7 truck of Rajah Caruth, which would send him spinning up into the outside wall from just inside the top-10, and unfortunately end his day.

The green flag would fly again with 39 to go with all four championship contenders in the top-seven. Zane Smith would make a huge move to the inside on the restart to push it three wide and take the lead back after his pit road woes. Chandler Smith would hold strong with Zane as long as he could, but with 20 to go there was nearly a full second gap between the two.

With 16 to go, Hailie Deegan cut a left front tire and made heavy contact with the outside wall, bringing out a yellow and forcing a tough decision for all of the championship teams. All four of the championship drivers would choose to pit. Ben Rhodes and four other non-championship drivers would take two tires and win the race off pit road. Chandler Smith and Ty Majeski would be the first two drivers that took four tires off pit road in sixth and seventh while Zane Smith’s pit crew would let him down for the third time on the day, sticking him with a bad pit stop that brought him off pit road ninth. Stewart Friesen and Carson Hocevar would stay out and make up the first two rows.

The green flag would fly with 10 to go, and Ben Rhodes in possession of the championship lead in third place. Friesen maintained the lead, trailed immediately by Rhodes, Majeski, and Zane Smith. With six to go, Rhodes would take the lead with Zane Smith on four ties jumping into second. All four championship drivers were in the top-four and within one second of each other with five laps to go.

With four to go, Ty Majeski would try to force the issue on Zane Smith while fighting for second, and pushed just a bit too hard, spinning out of turn four making light contact with the inside wall. The spin dashed his championship hopes, and set up a green white checker to decide the 2022 champion.

Ben Rhodes and Zane Smith took the inside line, while Chandler Smith chose the outside line on the front row for the GWC restart. Zane would force it three wide on the inside and power to the lead while Chandler Smith went for the crossover, but was unsuccessful.

Zane Smith would jump to the lead on the final lap, and heading into the final turn Ben Rhodes had a chance to pull a Ty Gibbs and simply punt Zane – but he decided to try and do it the right way only making light contact with Zane. Zane Smith held on, took the win and, after two straight years as the runner up in the series, would claim his first career championship!

“Third times the charm – I want this sh*t more than anyone in the world” said Zane upon exiting his truck. After coming up just short the last two years, he finally managed to pick up the big win.

Ben Rhodes meanwhile simply didn’t have the tires or the pace to repeat as a champion. “Two tires versus four, that was the name of the game – ultimately we just didn’t need that last caution.”

Chandler Smith would come home third in the championship battle, and now turns his sights to the Xfinity Series next year as he will drive full time for Kaulig Racing, taking over for A.J. Allmendinger. “Looking forward to starting next year already,” he would go on to say.

Ty Majeski would round out the championship four drivers following his late race incident, coming home 20th. While certainly not the result he wanted, it was still a career defining season for Majeski as he put on a great show in the playoffs. “I thought the best opportunity to [win it] for us was to wiggle the 38 there… just didn’t work out.”


  1. Zane Smith
  2. Ben Rhodes
  3. Chandler Smith
  4. John Hunter Nemechek
  5. Stewart Firesen
  6. Grant Enfinger
  7. Corey Heim
  8. Tanner Gray
  9. Kaden Honeycutt
  10. Carson Hocevar
  11. Derek Kraus
  12. Matt Crafton
  13. Layne Riggs
  14. Tyler Ankrum
  15. Colby Howard
  16. Jake Garcia
  17. Tanner Gray
  18. Lawless Alan
  19. Chase Purdy
  20. Ty Majeski
  21. Dean Thompson
  22. Matt DiBenedetto
  23. Tyler Hill
  24. Austin Wayne Self
  25. Blaine Perkins
  26. Chris Hacker
  27. Timmy Hill
  28. Johnny Sauter
  29. Jack Wood
  30. Christian Eckes
  31. Hailie Deegan
  32. Rajah Caruth
  33. Spencer Boyd
  34. Keith McGee
  35. Armani Williams

Featured photo from Pat Vallely.

Published by Walker Skeeter

Walker is a 4th year climatology PhD candidate at the University of Delaware. Despite being a climate scientist, Walker has been a NASCAR fan for over 20 years! His favorite drivers are Bubba Wallace, Tyler Reddick, and Alex Bowman in cup, and AJ Allmendinger, Tommy Joe Martins, and Ryan Vargas in Xfinity. Outside of racing, he enjoys talking about (and studying) the weather, watching Baltimore sports, and playing video games.

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