BRISTOL, Tenn. — Zane Smith fell one position short of winning Thursday‘s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway, but considering how his day started it may as well have been a victory.
Smith, a winner of three Truck Series events so far this year, was forced to miss qualifying earlier Thursday when a rear-end axle seal failed on his No. 38 Front Row Motorsports Ford F-150.
As a result, he was forced to start at the rear of the field for the UNOH 200. He was joined there by John Hunter Nemechek, who crashed in practice and also missed qualifying.
RELATED: Race results
“We started out today really rough with our axle seal busting open and not being able to qualify,” Smith said. “This is probably the worst place that could happen. If it was a mile-and-a-half, you just go where they‘re not. The PJ1 is just so dominant, you can‘t do that.”
With passing so difficult, Smith‘s team strategically kept him on track at the conclusion of the second stage. That moved him into the race lead alongside eventual winner Ty Majeski.
Smith would eventually lose the lead to Majeski during a restart. Despite having additional restarts to attempt to take the lead back, Smith was unable to pass Majeski and crossed the finish line second.
“All of those restarts, even when I was the leader, it probably looked dumb because I took the bottom,” said Smith. “I was so bad outside of the PJ1. I knew he would have a better launch, but all I was hoping for was to be door-to-door with him. Towards the end there, I don‘t know how many laps we had on tires, it was really hard not to spin them so much.”
Smith‘s attention now turns to the next two races, on Oct. 1 at Talladega Superspeedway and on Oct. 22 at Homestead-Miami Speedway as he looks to lock himself into the championship race on Nov. 4 at Phoenix Raceway.
“Focus forward and hopefully win Talladega or Homestead,” Smith said. “Looking forward to those two. I‘m happy we‘re still above the cutline, but you‘re never safe in this round.”