Chandler Smith wins NASCAR trucks at Pocono, playoffs set

LONG POND, Pa. (AP) — Zane Smith clinched the regular season NASCAR Truck Series championship and Chandler Smith took the checkered flag Saturday at Pocono Raceway.

Chandler Smith won his second race of the season driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports and is one of only two drivers in the playoff field with multiple wins this season. He led 49 of 60 laps on the 2½-mile tri-oval track.

“We’ve been going through a little bit of a struggle recently,” Chandler Smith said.

It was clear sailing at Pocono.

Zane Smith and Chandler Smith (they are not related), Ben Rhodes, John Hunter Nemechek, Stewart Friesen, Christian Eckes, Ty Majeski, Carson Hocevar, Grant Enfinger and Matt Crafton are in the playoffs. The run to the championship opens Friday at Indianapolis Raceway Park.

Majeski, Crafton, Rhodes and Eckes all drive for ThorSport Racing. Crafton will race for a fourth series championship.

Zane Smith was the Truck Series runner-up in each of the past two seasons and hoped his success — he has three wins — over the first 16 races can better position him to win his first championship. One caveat: NASCAR’s Trucks’ regular-season points leader has not won the season championship in each of the past four years.

He finished 13th on Saturday.

“I knew I only had to get a couple of points,” to clinch, Smith said. “Long day. Fought a really tough truck. I’m glad we’re on to the playoffs and ready to get this season started.”

Todd Bodine slammed the wall early in his 800th career NASCAR start and the final scheduled one of his career. A two-time Truck Series champion, Bodine ran a limited schedule the past few seasons. He made 241 career Cup starts, 333 in the second-tier Xfinity Series, and Saturday marked his 226th in the Truck Series. He made his NASCAR debut in a Busch Series race (now Xfinity) and finished 27th on Sept. 21, 1986 at Martinsville Speedway.

He finished last in 36th place at Pocono.

“It’s definitely not how we wanted this to go,” he said. “It’s racing. I’ve been here before. I’ve wrecked before. This is part of the game.”

Can the 58-year-old Bodine really go out this way?

“Heck, maybe I’ll have to make 801,” he said.

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