The first road course race for the Truck Series in 2023 and it did not disappoint, The #38 Ford makes it three in a row, Kyle Busch frustrated with 2nd at COTA, and solid points finishes for many drivers.
1 – Zane Smith and FRM burn it down for the third year in a row
The #38 F150 from Front Row Motorsports owns Circuit of the America’s, Zane Smith parks it back in victory lane for a third year in a row. Smith qualified the truck seventh, behind the #41 and #51 Silverado’s of Ross Chastain and Kyle Busch. When the race began, Smith worked himself up to the top three, keeping back from the battle from first. The #38 F150 kept pace with the leaders, waiting for the correct moment to capitalize on a mistake. When the caution came out for Parker Kligerman stopping on the front stretch, Smith inherited the lead from Busch, who pitted. For the last fourteen laps, Smith was untouchable, running the fastest laps of the race, to take his truck back to victory lane at COTA. He led 16 laps throughout the day, the most throughout the field.
Zane Smith celebrated with victory donuts at the top of the turn 1 hill and brought it to the front stretch to greet his pit crew. Pushing the nose of the #38 F150 against the wall and doing a massive burnout. Scalding hot rubber from his Goodyear tires was caught in the mandatory wet weather ‘mudflaps’ igniting them as he stepped out of the truck. By the time Fox caught up to him for an interview, the entire rear of the truck was ablaze. It took firefighters a bit to finally put out the fire, but it made for quite the scene in victory lane. This win is Front Row Motorsports’ third straight in the Truck Series, first with Todd Gilliland in 2021, and now two with Zane Smith.
Burned 'em down … literally … 🔥👀 pic.twitter.com/FVhkCy953W
— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) March 25, 2023
2 – Kyle Busch runs second, frustrated with results
Kyle Busch runs in the Truck Series to win, and he is disappointed with nothing less. Starting next to Chastain on the front row, Kyle dueled with his fellow Cup Series competitor throughout the race. The duel with Chastain was some of the best racing I have watched at COTA. From my spot above the esses, you could see the duel coming down the turn 1 hill, and how Chastain got around Busch. Chastain pitted before the #51, giving the lead to Busch. When Parker Kligerman’s truck died on the front straight, Kyle had not pitted, giving the lead to Zane Smith, who went on to win the race.
Rowdy rallied back to second, but he was not happy with his results. In his interview with Bob Pockrass on pit road following the race, he showed his displeasure and his injury. Not used to the H-pattern in the truck compared to the sequential in the Cup car, his hand had a sizable blister. Again, not a good day according to Kyle Busch
Kyle Busch had blisters on his right hand from using the shifter at COTA. The H-pattern shifter in the trucks (and Xfinity cars) is different from the sequential shifter in the Next Gen car in Cup. pic.twitter.com/BFSjQb9a5b
— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) March 25, 2023
3 – Oval racers conquer COTA
The Truck Series sees its occasional road course ‘ringers’ join in to spoil the fun. This weekend saw Alex Bowman attempt to qualify, Ed Jones made the race but wrecked out on lap 2, and Cup Series drivers Chastain and Busch. This weekend, the regulars of the series had some great finishes at Circuit of the America’s. Ty Majeski, a short-track superstar, lead a lap and finished third. Tyler Ankrum, driver of the #16 Tundra, got his first top-five of the year. Nick Sanchez secured a top-ten finish in his first trip to Austin. Tanner Grey, former NHRA Pro-Stock World Champion turned Truck Series driver. Great results for drivers with not a lot of road racing experience.
4 – Strong day for Eckes ends with DNF
Points leader going into COTA, Christian Eckes was having a great race until a suspension failure took him out of the race. Eckes qualified his #19 Silverado fifth and grabbed the lead out of turn 1 on lap 4. He held off both the #38 and #51 trucks purely on speed. The #19 truck won stage one but that suspension issue slowed him down in the late laps of the race, until lap 31 when the #19 truck went back to the garage. Eckes on his Twitter said it’s a lot of fun to drive trucks with that much speed. Look for Eckes and the MHR team to bounce back at Texas.
5 – First Truck Race with no Stage Cautions since 2017
Since Kaz Grala won the first stage in the Truck Series race at Daytona, there has not been a race without a stage until last Saturday. Christian Eckes and Kyle Busch won the stages of this race. From a fan’s perspective, it was a great success. COTA is a huge track and the stage cautions added thirty minutes to a race that should only be about an hour and a half. With two races back to back for fans on Saturday, having the race finish early and a bigger gap between the two races is better for the experience. I can’t wait to see where they implement this next. I think and many fans also agree, that super speedways should be next.
The Craftsman Truck Series continues its Texas tour with a stop at Texas Motor Speedway this Saturday, April 1st.