NASCAR‘s Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year, Zane Smith, not only won over the sport but also the fans in his first full-time effort at the national level.
During Wednesday‘s 2020 NASCAR Awards show, Smith was presented with the Most Popular Driver trophy for his series. The ballot was determined completely by fan voting, which was open from Sept. 6 to Nov. 9.
Ross Chastain, who worked full time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this season and will move up to the NASCAR Cup Series in 2021, took home the award in the Gander Truck Series last year.
Smith, a 21-year-old from Huntington Beach, California, steered the No. 21 GMS Racing Chevrolet to two race wins in his first full-time NASCAR ride. His breakthrough victory came Aug. 7, 2020 at Michigan International Speedway, beating Kyle Busch Motorsports‘ Christian Eckes to the finish line by .318 seconds. Smith then won again two races later at Dover International Speedway. He made it all the way to the Championship 4 in the playoffs, where he placed second in the season finale at Phoenix Raceway to finish runner-up in the final driver standings.
Sheldon Creed ultimately won Phoenix to claim the 2020 championship title. Brett Moffitt and Grant Enfinger were the other Championship 4 contenders and came in third and fourth in the standings, respectively.
Through the 23 races, Smith had seven top-five and 13 top-10 showings. He averaged a 10.5 finish and led 376 laps overall. Despite his rookie status, Smith only crashed out of two events — one of which was at Talladega Superspeedway, which is known for its wildcard tendencies.
Smith only had one other Gander Truck Series start before 2020, and it was in 2018 at the World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, where he finished fifth. In 2019, Smith made 10 Xfinity Series starts — highlighted by two top fives, seven top 10s.
Next season, Smith will return to the Gander Truck Series with GMS Racing, the organization announced Oct. 12.