NASCAR Truck Series: 5 possible first-time winners in 2021

Zane Smith, GMS Racing, and Grant Enfinger, ThorSport Racing, NASCAR - Phoenix Raceway 2020 NASCAR Championship
Zane Smith, GMS Racing, and Grant Enfinger, ThorSport Racing, NASCAR - Phoenix Raceway 2020 NASCAR Championship /
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Chandler Smith, Kyle Busch Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) /

Possible 2021 first-time winners: Chandler Smith

After winning nine ARCA races in 33 starts, Chandler Smith moved up full-time to the Truck Series this year to pilot the #18 Toyota. He also has started 16 Truck Series races and recorded eight top five finishes and nine top 10 finishes.

He has already scored a second place finish, having done so in his second career Truck Series start at Bristol Motor Speedway in 2019. He earned his full-time ride with Kyle Busch Motorsports.

Consider this: Smith has 22 top five finishes and 29 top 10 finishes in 33 ARCA starts, and he has just one finish of worse than 20th place — not too shabby for the driver from Talking Rock, Georgia.

Smith joins newcomer teammate John Hunter Nemechek in the Kyle Busch Motorsports stable this season. While team owner Kyle Busch should use some patience with the duo, Smith is undeniably talented anyway.

However, a winless Christian Eckes was let go from the team after last season, even after making the playoffs, and while Raphael Lessard won, he too was cut from the organization after not making the playoffs. So for Smith to continue ascending up the Toyota NASCAR ladder, he must win and advance to the postseason.

At which courses has Smith done well thus far?

Smith won the inaugural ARCA race at Phoenix Raceway last year. He only led the final 11 laps, but he fended off his fellow competitors on a final two-lap shootout.

Smith also has two third place finishes in his two Truck Series starts at Phoenix Raceway. That track hosts the Championship 4 race, so if Smith advances to that round, he could deliver a third driver championship to Kyle Busch’s team.

As noted, Smith’s career-best Truck Series finish came at Bristol Motor Speedway. He also has a fifth place finish there. The final round of 10 race is scheduled for that venue, so if he makes the playoffs, he could win that race to advance to the round of 8 if he hasn’t advanced already.

The second race of the Truck Series season is at the Daytona International Speedway road course. Smith competed in the inaugural ARCA race there, finishing in ninth place. Could he be a dark horse to go to victory lane on Friday, February 19?

The Truck Series is then scheduled to head to Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Smith has started one Truck Series race there. He started and finished in fifth place. His consistency there, coupled with Kyle Busch Motorsports’ four victories in that race, could parlay him to celebrating a win at the four-turn, 1.5-mile (2.414-kilometer) oval in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Smith only raced in 12 of the 23 Truck Series races last year, but he finished in 19th place in the driver standings, besting full-time drivers Spencer Boyd and Jennifer Jo Cobb. He was within 22 points of full-time drivers Tate Fogleman and Jordan Anderson.

There are high expectations for him in his rookie season, but he should be up to the task and nab  his first career win.