Zane Smith could not have predicted when his first career win would occur. Nor could he imagine that would happen in an improbable fashion. In Friday’s NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series Henry Ford Health System 200 at Michigan International Speedway, the 21-year old Smith notched his first victory, in just the 12th start of his career. And he did it in an extremely unexpected way.
“I didn’t know how I was going to run this year, just from a lack of experience, but I knew that I’d have shots at winning from GMS Racing and that we could be competitive week in and week out,” Smith said. “Throughout this year I’ve already given up three wins from dumb luck and little things from me. We finally capitalized when it mattered.”
The scheduled 100-lap race went an extra seven laps with three cautions over the final 17 laps, a stretch which also included a red flag. Grant Enfinger and John Hunter Nemechek were 1-2 as they took the white flag, but, along with Austin Hill, they got into one another soon afterwards, taking them out of contention and allowing Smith and second-place finisher Christian Eckes to race to the front of the pack. Smith’s margin of victory over Eckes was .318 seconds.
“I knew we had a really fast car all day,” Smith said. “The choose cone rule was cool, but we just kept picking the wrong lanes when the caution would come out. I think we all know that track position in truck racing is magnified. With five laps to go I think we were 18th or 20th. I never gave up.”
For Eckes, it was the rookie’s third second-place finish in the last four races and his second straight.
“We started off okay. I got loose out of nowhere, did the same thing last year so I guess I’ll have to go back and figure out why that happened,” Eckes said. “Kind of put us behind the rest of the day. Got a couple good restarts there at the end, but we constantly fought track position and dirty air. Our truck was just horrible in dirty air. Finally got a shot there at the end. I guess he (Zane Smith) just had a better run than I did and I went too high. He just drove around me like I was standing still. It’s three second-place finishes the last three weeks and frustrating as hell, but we’ll move onto Daytona.”
Rookie Tanner Gray (3rd), Tyler Ankrum (4th) and Todd Gilliland (5th) round out the top-5. Enfinger wound up in 33rdspot while Nemechek was 25th.
With his win, Smith joins Sheldon Creed (Kentucky) as the second first-time winner in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series in 2020.
Brett Moffitt won Stage 1, his third stage win of the season. Johnny Sauter secured Stage 2, his first stage win of the year. Sauter was battling Enfinger for the lead late in the race, but hopes for his initial win of the year vanished after his truck got loose and hit the Turn 2 wall on lap 86.
There were 17 lead changes among 13 drivers and 11 cautions for 51 laps.
The four-race weekend at Michigan International Speedway will continue Saturday with the running of the NASCAR Cup Series FireKeepers Casino 400 (312 miles) at 4:00 pm (NBCSN).