With a near pole win last November in his first NASCAR Xfinity Series start at Phoenix Raceway, we learned that part-time driver Sammy Smith had speed at the Arizona one-mile track, and after posting a top-10 finish in that Xfinity Series championship race, we knew he could handle himself in a Xfinity Series car.
Now in his first full-time season with Joe Gibbs Racing, Smith went back to Phoenix Raceway to post his first win in the NASCAR Xfinity Series last weekend, becoming the youngest Xfinity Series winner at the track at 18 years old.
The win now puts Smith in sixth in the driver standings with 128 points, 67 points back from Austin Hill who currently leads the Xfinity Series driver standings. The victory also makes Smith the third different driver this season to already earn his spot in the Playoffs; joining Austin Hill (Daytona, Las Vegas) and John Hunter Nemechek (Fontana).
Smith will have a few days to enjoy the spoils of his victory before preparing to make his first start at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Although this will be his series track debut at Atlanta, he does have some experience on 1.5-mile tracks.
Last season, he posted a top-10 finish (eighth) at Kansas Speedway. If Smith goes back-to-back and takes the checkered flag this weekend, he will also go down as the youngest winner at Atlanta Motor Speedway, a title currently held by Ty Gibbs at 19 years, 5 months and 15 days.
Up Next: Atlanta Motor Speedway
With the conclusion of the West Coast Swing, the NASCAR Xfinity Series now sets its eyes on Atlanta Motor Speedway for the RAPTOR King of Tough 250 on Saturday, March 18 at 5 p.m. ET on FS1, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR radio as part of a doubleheader Saturday with the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series race, the FR8 208, at 2 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
There have been 33 NASCAR Xfinity Series races at Atlanta Motor Speedway producing 21 different race winners and 18 different pole winners. Seven races have been won from the pole or first starting position, most recently by Kyle Busch in 2021.
NASCAR Cup Series regular Kevin Harvick holds just about every Xfinity Series record at the Atlanta, Georgia track – most wins (five), top fives (11), top 10s (13), lead lap finishes (13), laps completed (3,135) and laps led (973).
Two previous winners are entered in this weekend’s RAPTOR King of Tough 250 – JR Motorsports’ Justin Allgaier (2021) and Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Hill (2022).
Allgaier snagged his win in 2021. In his 14 starts at the 1.5-mile track, he has posted one win, three top fives and nine top 10s.
Hill made the trip to Victory Lane in just his second start at Atlanta Motor Speedway after finishing runner-up in his first start as a rookie in the Xfinity Series.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series will be skipping practice this weekend and heading straight for qualifying on Friday, March 17 at 4:35 p.m. ET airing on FS1.
NASCAR Xfinity Series
Next Race: RAPTOR King of Tough 250
The Place: Atlanta Motor Speedway
The Date: Saturday, March 18
The Time: 5 p.m. ET
The Purse: $1,274,624
TV: FS1, 4 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 251.02 miles (163 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 40),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 80), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 163)
Who will be the “King of Tough”?
Obviously, the two favorites this weekend are the former Atlanta winners – Justin Allgaier and Austin Hill – but three drivers in the field that will be sure to give them a run for their money this Saturday are Riley Herbst, Daniel Hemric and Justin Haley.
Stewart-Haas Racing’s Riley Herbst has given the Atlanta track a go five times in the Xfinity Series and has posted one top five and three top 10s. In last year’s Spring Atlanta race, he raced his way up to a fourth-place finish after starting in the 24th position.
Kaulig Racing’s Daniel Hemric has also put up some good stats at Atlanta Motor Speedway. In his seven starts, he’s posted two top fives and four top 10s. Most recently, he worked his way up to a fifth-place finish after starting the race in the 16th position.
Cup Series regular Justin Haley will be pulling double duty and driving the No.10 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet in this weekend’s Xfinity Series race at Atlanta, a track that has treated him well. In his four Xfinity Series starts, he has posted two top fives and four top 10s. His most recent Xfinity Series stint at Atlanta Motor Speedway was in 2021 where he finished fourth.
Xfinity Playoff picture heading into Week 5
As NASCAR Xfinity Series drivers head into their fifth race of the season, Austin Hill leads the standings with his two wins (Daytona, Las Vegas) and 195 points. In second is John Hunter Nemechek who clinched his spot in the Playoffs with his win at Auto Club and currently sits with 165 points.
Justin Allgaier (156 points) and Chandler Smith (155 points) assume the third and fourth place spots in the standings heading into this weekend’s race. Both drivers have posted three top fives and three top 10s this season thus far. Riley Herbst sits in the fifth position, tied with Smith on points (155).
Sammy Smith’s win last weekend at Phoenix Raceway bumped him to sixth in the standings (128 points). Sam Mayer (128), Cole Custer (118), Josh Berry (114), Daniel Hemric (106), Sheldon Creed (105) and Parker Kligerman (99) round out the current Playoff outlook.
Just outside the cutline is Brett Moffitt (-12) and Ryan Sieg (-13).
NASCAR Xfinity Series, Etc.
Chad Chastain to make NASCAR Xfinity Series debut – Chad Chastain, brother of NASCAR Cup Series driver Ross Chastain, will be making his NASCAR Xfinity Series debut this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Chad Chastain will be behind the wheel of the No. 91 Chevrolet for DGM Racing.
“I’m thrilled to make my NASCAR Xfinity Series debut with DGM Racing, a Florida-based team, driving a ‘Protect Your Melon’ Chevrolet just like I watched my brother do for years,” said Chastain.
Though this will be Chastain’s first Xfinity Series start, he had made four starts in the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series posting a best finish of 30th at Indianapolis Raceway Park and Homestead-Miami.