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The win came in Smith’s tenth career NXS start, and is the second consecutive win for Kaulig Racing. The team also won last weekend at COTA with A.J Allmendinger.
Smith also won at Richmond last year as a NASCAR Truck Series driver. He has been impressive as a rookie in the Xfinity Series with four top-fives in the first seven races of the year.
“Feels great,” said an elated Smith after his victory burnout. “Vegas, we dominated that race (but) didn’t win. Said it was all in God’s timing. He’s creating something way bigger and better than I know what to do with. Here we are at Richmond – my favorite race track and we’re sitting in Victory Lane. So, all glory goes to God. Thank you Chris Rice, Matt Kaulig, Quick Tie Products, my smoking hot wife and everybody at Kaulig Racing. This is unbelievable.”
A disappointed Nemechek finished a close second, just three tenths back at the finish line.
“We weren’t very good on the short run,” said Nemechek post-race. “We had a long run speed car. Came from the back up there to battle for the win and put ourselves into position … Disappointed to run runner-up again. That’s the last three races here (where) I’ve run second, so it’s frustrating but we’ll go back to work. We just have to figure out how to execute a little bit better. No. 16 (C. Smith) had the best car on the short run. It was going to be hard to hold him off.”
Josh Berry was third, Kaz Grala fourth, and Cole Custer fifth.
Sheldon Creed, Ryan Sieg, Parker Kligerman, Austin Hill, and Derek Kraus rounded out the top-ten.
Justin Allgaier was the top-finishing Dash 4 Cash driver in 13th, earning the $100,000 bonus.
After a brief rain delay, the race finally got going Saturday afternoon with Allgaier leading the field to the green flag.
Rookie Sammy Smith quickly moved into the race lead. Pole-sitter Allgaier then fell down the running order until he was outside the top-ten.
Joe Graf Jr., driving the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, slowed with a left-front tire failure and contacted the outside wall. The race remained green as he limped back to the pits. The cut tire was the result of contact from Custer.
The first yellow flag flew at Lap 35 for a pre-planned competition caution, due to the rain before the race. Garrett Smithley was awarded the free pass.
It was a split strategy with race leader Smith and his teammate Nemechek staying out with the intent to save a set of tires for later. However, most of the lead lap cars chose to pit. Riley Herbst won the race off pit road, followed by the Kaulig teammates Daniel Hemric and C. Smith.
Hill got caught speeding in the pits and was sent to the rear of the field. Brennan Poole was also penalized for an uncontrolled tire, which all cars avoided.
Herbst quickly powered into the race lead as the JGR drivers tumbled down the order. His time out front was brief though, as C. Smith then moved ahead. Both fell a lap down before the end of the stage, but Nemechek was awarded the free pass at the end of the first stage.
Smith held on to win the stage ahead of Herbst, Brandon Jones, Berry, Custer, Allgaier, Hemric, Creed, R. Sieg, and Sam Mayer.
Herbst took the lead off pit road ahead of Jones with Smith falling to third. Mayer lost a lap during the pit stops and R. Sieg was sent to the rear for too many crew members over the wall.
Partway through the stage, Graf half-spun in front of Herbst who braked, thinking there would be a yellow. There was not, and it cost Herbst the race lead. C. Smith seized the opportunity and regained control of the race. Graf then got sideways a second time soon after, and ultimately went to pit road to work on the car.
Nemechek quickly made his way through the field after the team’s botched strategy call, and was inside the top-ten within 40 laps.
Berry charged forward late in the stage, taking the race lead with nine laps to go in the stage. Jones moved past C. Smith as well, making it a JRM 1-2 at the front.
Alfredo got into the outside wall, but limped back to pit road with right-front damage. Again, the race remained green. He did not return to the track and became the first driver to fall out of the race.
After a brief battle, Herbst also passed Smith and pushed him down to fourth.
The battle for the final stage point came down to RCR drivers Creed and Hill, with Creed prevailing.
Berry claimed the stage win, lapping up to 19th place. Kyle Sieg received the free pass.
Berry was followed by Jones, Herbst, C. Smith, Custer, Grala, Nemechek, Kligerman, Allgaier, and Creed in the top-ten.
Off pit road, Berry held the lead in front of Jones and Herbst.
The final stage went green with 89 laps to go. Berry was tight on the bottom, and teammate Jones took the race lead from around the outside.
Berry reclaimed the lead from Jones with 64 laps to go. Nemechek followed suit and passed Jones, then setting his sights on catching race leader Berry.
Allgaier gambled, pitting with 40 laps to go under green and taking four fresh tires. He was running eighth before the pit stop.
However, Jeremy Clements then slowed on the frontstretch. He slowly crept around the track, and came to a stop on pit road.
The first natural caution of the race flew as a result with just under 30 laps remaining, robbing Allgaier of any chance to make up his lost track position. Ryan Ellis, running 14th, earned the free pass. Allgaier was among those who opted to take a wave-around.
Berry held the lead off pit road, followed by Nemechek and Jones.
However, it was Nemechek who powered into the race lead on the ensuing restart.
The caution flew once more as Jones and Herbst collided. Both drivers spun, while Custer and Connor Mosack also getting swept up in it. Herbst sustained significant rear-end damage, impacting the outside wall.
Mayer was awarded the free pass during the caution.
The race resumed with 12 laps to go, only for the sixth caution to fly with Brett Moffitt spinning. Leland Honeyman and Graf were also involved. The caution put S. Smith back on the lead lap, after spending 170 laps trapped a lap down.
Just before the yellow, C. Smith took control of the race from Nemechek.
It turned into a six-lap shootout, with C. Smith and Nemechek battling it out for the win. Smith prevailed, leading a race-high 83 laps.