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Zane Smith Equally Proud, Disappointed with Runner-Up Finish at Nashville

It was a full range of emotions for NASCAR Cup Series Rookie of the Year contender Zane Smith Sunday night at Nashville Superspeedway. On one hand, he was proud to snag his career-best finish. On the other, he was disappointed to come up short when a win was within his grasp.


hero image for Zane Smith Equally Proud, Disappointed with Runner-Up Finish at Nashville

A runner-up finish in a five-overtime finish in Sunday's Ally 400 at Nashville Superspeedway finally gave Zane Smith a reason to smile in what has been a completely frustrating NASCAR Cup Series Rookie campaign. But Smith is a racer through and through, and coming up shy of his first-career win by just 0.068 seconds to Joey Logano, who somehow stretched his fuel tank for 110 laps, was a little hard to swallow.

"My winning side of me is pissed with the second place, especially after hearing the 22 was going to run out for the past 10 laps, I don’t know how many restarts," Smith said in his post-race interview on USA Network.

Smith lined up on the inside line in the third position on what would be the final of five overtime finish attempts, and at the end of the first lap of the two-lap dash to the finish line, he found himself in fourth.

Then, the magic started to happen for Smith as Chase Briscoe ran out of fuel from the third position just as the white flag was displayed. As Tyler Reddick fired his No. 45 23XI Racing Toyota Camry into the outside lane in an attempt to get a run on Logano for the lead off of Turn 2, Logano threw a block on Reddick.

The move stalled out Reddick's run, it slowed Logano's pace slightly, and it afforded Smith the opportunity he needed to have a shot at winning the race.

Heading into Turns 3 and 4, Reddick would pull the same high-lane move on Logano, which resulted in the same blocking technique by the driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford Mustang. This opened up the inside lan for Smith, who narrowly edged out Reddick for the runner-up spot and just missed out on the race win.

After taking the time to look back at the final restart, Smith was still happy about all of the moves that he made in the race-deciding moments. The advantage of clean air simply couldn't be overcome.

"No, I wouldn’t have done anything different," Smith explained. "I felt like I chose the right lane, and it’s crazy how much different these cars drive with cleaner air. Just proud of our strategy there."

While he's proud of the strategy that afforded him a chance to win the race, Smith was still shaking his head over how race-winner Logano was able to make his fuel tank last so many laps to end the race, and seeing Logano shaking his car back-and-forth gave him false hope.

"You never know how many more opportunities you’re going to have at a Cup win, so we’ll be thinking about that one, and of course it stings when you see them shaking it, thinking he’s going to run out right at the line, but just short," Smith said.

The racer continued, "But obviously proud of a second place. Top 3 in the Cup Series is awesome, so just proud of our day."

Once Smith has a chance to let the disappointment of missing out on the win subside, I think that the Rookie of the Year contender will have plenty of reason to smile.

Heading into Sunday's Ally 400, it had been a miserable opening 18 races of the season for the rookie driver. Prior to the race at Nashville Superspeedway, the native of Huntington Beach, California had just one top-15 finish, which was a 13th-place effort in the season-opening Daytona 500, and he had eight finishes of 30th-or-worse.

Even Sunday's race, for the majority of the event, wasn't a smashing success for Smith.

The No. 71 Jockey Outdoors by Luke Bryan Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 had an average running position of 28.7 in the race. But in the end, Smith and crew chief Stephen Doran found the perfect pit strategy to help them gain track position in the closing laps, and Smith wound up with the best non-superspeedway finish for Spire Motorsports.

Smith is thankful for everyone that has stuck with him despite the trying season.

"Appreciate everyone on board throughout this year, sticking with us," Smith stated. "It’s been rough, no doubt, so just appreciate everyone at Spire Motorsports, of course Jockey Outdoors. Having Luke Bryan on the hood this weekend is awesome. But of course our other partners, Focused Health riding with us every single weekend and sticking through it. Hopefully get them some good finishes, as well. Obviously Wellcare. So many partners I need to thank."

Smith and the No. 71 Spire Motorsports team will now look to keep the momentum rolling as the NASCAR Cup Series heads to Chicago this week for the second annual Grant Park 165 street race.

Photo Credit: Tyson Gifford, TobyChristie.com

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