High-schooler Sammy Smith wins Xfinity race at Phoenix
AVONDALE, Ariz. (AP) Sammy Smith won the Xfinity Series race at Phoenix Raceway on Saturday, the first victory for the 18-year-old high school student who is taking classes online so he can be a full-time driver.
Making his 13th start in the last two years for Joe Gibbs Racing, Smith led the final 52 laps and held off Cup Series star Kyle Busch on two restarts to take the checkered flag for the first time in a NASCAR national series event.
“It's amazing. It's a dream come true,” Smith said. “It's awesome.”
Ryan Truex finished second, followed by Sheldon Creed, Riley Herbst and Chandler Smith. Busch was second following a final restart with 15 laps to go, but made contact with Chandler Smith on the final lap and ended up ninth.
Sammy Smith put JGR in victory lane in Phoenix for the 16th time in the second-tier series and for the sixth consecutive year - with six different drivers. Christopher Bell (2018), Busch (2019), Brandon Jones (2020), Daniel Hemric (2021) and Ty Gibbs (2022) previously celebrated at the mile-long track in the desert.
Smith also became the youngest Xfinity Series winner at Phoenix. He did so with seemingly relative ease, leading 92 of 200 laps in the United Rentals 200 and not facing any significant challenges down the stretch.
Busch briefly passed him following a restart with 24 laps to go, but Smith went right back by for good.
After driving nine races for Gibbs last year, Smith is now running a full slate for Gibbs. He had to give up his senior year of high school to make it happen.
Justin Allgaier failed to extend his streak of top-three finishes. The JR Motorsports driver crashed with 22 laps remaining when he made contact with Kaz Grala and slammed into the outside wall. He finished 36th in a 38-car field.
It was a disappointing ending for Allgaier, who won the first two stages of the race. He also had finished third or better in four consecutive Xfinity Series races. He was third in the 2022 season finale at Phoenix, third in the 2023 opener at Daytona, third at Fontana and second last week at Vegas.
The series races next Saturday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
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Updated March 12, 2023