NASCAR Truck Series: 5 Takeaways from Daytona

DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 17: Zane Smith, driver of the #38 Love's/Speedco Ford, celebrates in victory lane after winning the rain-delayed NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series NextEra Energy 250 at Daytona International Speedway on February 17, 2023 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

A rain-shortened race at Daytona gave us a lot to discuss. Kyle Busch Motorsports and affiliates were strong in qualifying, Corey Lajoie’s impressive performance, rain, Zane, and the biggest crowd since 2011.

Here are some of the key talking points as the NASCAR Truck Series leaves Daytona.

1 – Sanchez and REV Racing on pole, KBM shows Chevy speed

In his first-ever start in the Truck Series, Nick Sanchez and his new team to the Truck Series, REV Racing, took the pole. Sanchez laid down a 49.731-second lap, two hundredths better than second place Chase Purdy. Purdy, driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports, took his Silverado to a 49.757-second lap. Jack Wood, driver of the #51 Truck also for KBM, took fourth, a solid qualifying effort for KBM, and its technical affiliate REV Racing.

KBM switched to Chevrolet during the off-season. Many wondered if KBM would have struggles moving manufacturers. While races at Daytona are hard to predict and qualifying at a superspeedway is different from other places, this showing of speed for KBM shows they are still the powerhouse in the Truck Series we expect them to be.

2 – Biggest Truck Series crowd since 2011

Per Dustin Albino, the Truck Series saw its biggest crowd since 2011, a positive note for the series. An attendance figure has not been released but the crowd looked healthy on the broadcast. Fans from the top decks of Daytona to the rows closest to the race track filled the majority of the 100,000 seats.

This is exciting for this series, the lowest of the three national series, which many look over it for its bigger siblings Xfinity and Cup. More eyes on the trucks mean more sponsors, in turn creating a stronger Truck Series. With new tracks on the schedule in Wilkesboro and Milwaukee, we could see sellout crowds at the returning tracks.

3 – Pastrana, LaJoie, & Elliott

The field had three veteran drivers this weekend. Corey Lajoie, driving for Spire in the #7 Truck, Chase Elliott subbing for an underage Jake Garcia in the McAnally-Hinglemann #35 Silverado, and X-Games star Travis Pastrana driving for Niece Motorsports in the #41. Elliott qualified 14th and Pastrana 25th. Those two would run a quiet, but solid race, finishing 10th and 13th respectively.

The star of the three was Corey Lajoie. Lajoie showed his talents, placing fifth in the qualifying order. Due to an unapproved adjustment, the #7 truck would go to the back of the field but made quick work back to the front. Corey would reach the lead by lap 43, and duel with Zane Smith and Christian Eckes for the lead late in the race. He would pit, falling back to 25th when the caution for rain came out. A strong race for Lajoie but without the finish he would have liked. Lajoie tied Eckes for most laps lead (19).

4 – Rain, Rain, Go Away

The first race of the season was cursed with rain. The majority of this race was run under caution, 51.9 percent. The three wrecks that occurred led to 20 laps of caution for cleanup and the rain led to another 18 laps. The longest green flag runs were 11 laps long, with the average green flag run sitting at just 5.4 laps. The red flag was thrown for rain at lap 79 after five caution laps, and Zane Smith was declared the winner from pit road. Not the way the Truck Series was hoping to start the year.

5 – Zane Smith goes back to back

Defending race winner and champion, Zane Smith became the 2023 NextEra Energy 250 champion. Smith qualified fifteenth, and by lap 47, he was leading. Lajoie, Eckes, and Smith fought for the lead in the closing laps, and when the caution was thrown for rain at lap 74, Smith was out front. He would lead the five caution laps before the red flag was thrown and the race was called.

Zane Smith had one of the biggest weekends of his career, locked into the Daytona 500 thanks to his performance in the Duels. A competitive win in the #38 truck Friday night. He brought his wrecked #38 Mustang home in thirteenth for the 500. Zane Smith is a budding talent. He’s got a big year ahead of him and will be the favorite to defend his title in 2023.

The Craftsman Truck Series returns on March 3rd, at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the Victoria’s Voice 200. Coverage begins at 7:00 pm E.T. on FS1

Featured Image Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images