Smith holds off Busch, defends COTA trucks win

AUSTIN, Texas — Reigning Craftsman Truck Series champion Zane Smith became the first repeat NASCAR winner at the Circuit of The Americas road course, holding off Kyle Busch to win the XPEL 225 on Saturday.

Smith, a 23-year-old driving the No. 38 Front Row Motorsports Ford, led the final 15 laps and crossed the finish line 5.451-seconds ahead of Busch.

Front Row Motorsports is a perfect 3-for-3 in Truck series races at COTA; Todd Gilliland won the inaugural 2021 race.

Ty Majeski, Tyler Ankrum and Ross Chastain rounded out the top five.

“It was fast when it mattered,” said Smith, who won the season-opening race at Daytona. “I just enjoy coming to all the road courses, especially here. So cool. Just a true testament to this team.

“Once we got to that 8 [laps]-to-go point and I was told Kyle was in second, my heart rate went up a little bit — just because he’s so good at managing his stuff when it mattered. So I just tried not to make any mistakes.”

Chastain and Busch combined to lead 22 laps early on. Smith was able to take the lead after pitting just before the final caution, getting track position. Chastain actually fell back to 28th for the final restart and Busch was 17th, yet they both rallied to top-5 finishes.

Both of the NASCAR Cup Series full-timers wasted no time navigating upward through the field. On just the single restart lap, Busch picked off positions with ease, moving up 10 spots to run seventh. He moved into second with six laps to go, but by that point Smith had already opened up more than a 5-second advantage.

“Played the long game and unfortunately the long game didn’t work,” Busch said of gambling with a pit strategy that resulted in him pitting two laps — and a caution flag — after Smith made his final stop. “They got lucky and beat us.”

Corey Heim, rookie Nick Sanchez, Tanner Gray, Kaz Grala and Ben Rhodes rounded out the top 10.

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