Smithley makes pass in the grass, wins at Las Vegas Motor Speedway
After Anthony Alfredo and Adam Cabot made contact coming out of the final corner, Garrett Smithley drove through the grass to make the pass for the win in Monday Night Racing.
Smithley, who drives in the NASCAR Cup Series for Rick Ware Racing, dove his way around the incident in front to win his second career race in the series.
In a major twist, Smithley was moved into the Monday Night Racing playoffs after it was announced prior to the race that this season’s wins leader, Shane Van Gisbergen, could not make the next two races. Smithley’s victory in turn locks him into the second round of the playoffs.
“I’m not speechless very often and I was absolutely speechless after that happened. I have no idea what just happened,” said Smithley. “A pretty crazy set of circumstances there. Crazy to be in. Obviously we did all we could in the last race to run second to Rajah (Caruth) and just missed it by one spot. Then SVG didn’t make it tonight, so we were the fortunate one to make it and we capitalized on it.”
The race came down to a three-lap shootout to determine who could come away with the victory after a series of late-race cautions. Caruth, who had driven from seventh position to the lead over the course of two restarts, was shuffled off the bottom by Alfredo heading into Turn 3. He was then taken three-wide by Cabot and Smithley through Turns 1 and 2 on Lap 110.
Disaster struck for Caruth heading out of Turn 4 when he hit the right-rear quarter panel of Smithley, sending him hard into the outside wall. He was then hit from behind by Anders Krohn down the frontstretch, who bounced into Robby Lyons. Both Krohn and Lyons then slid back up the track into the path of Caruth, demolishing his car.
No caution was thrown as the leaders had already crossed the line.
Caruth had led 80 laps during the race.
“Coming to the white flag, that was more on me,” said Caruth. “I just didn’t let Garrett track out. I wanted to pinch him as much as I could there just to still have a shot at it. It didn’t go how I thought it would go realistically … you can pinch them as much as you want, but they need to come up the track eventually.”
On the white flag lap, side drafting became critical for both Cabot and Alfredo. Cabot was able to pull Alfredo back while coming off of Turn 2 from the outside line. Alfredo then responded with a side draft of his own heading down the backstretch to get back even with Cabot into Turn 3. Off Turn 4, when Cabot tried to stay on the quarter panel, the two made hard contact, sending both competitors up the track. Cabot was slammed into the outside wall while Alfredo drifted to the inside.
As both cars tried to recover from the incident, Smithley dove into the grass to avoid Alfredo. He bounced off the ground once when transitioning from the grass to the apron before coming across the line first.
Alfredo said he was not mad at Cabot.
“It was just racing hard for the win,” said Alfredo. “I mean, Cabot didn’t have any other choice than to pull me back there off Turn 4 if he wanted to drag race me to the line. It was just a little bit too tight there. We didn’t have enough room between us and he right-reared me. I’m thankful I didn’t hit the wall and saved it. I never lifted. I just held it to the floor and was able to make it to the line in second. I obviously didn’t have enough momentum and wasn’t able to get down in front of Garrett.”
JD Motorsports Tire Specialist Gabe Wood started on the pole after setting a 30.235 in qualifying with Justin Melillo starting alongside.
Wood led the first three laps before being caught and passed by Caruth.
Caruth was able to pull away by several seconds over the course of a 88-lap green flag run before trouble struck in front of him.
While battling at the back of the field, Michael Massie was spun around by ARCA Menards Series driver Daniel Dye. Massie slammed hard into the outside wall, crashing along the SAFER barrier for several seconds before rolling down the track into the path of Seth Eggert. Eggert then ricocheted off Massie right into the path of Caruth and a lapped down car in Joshua Slate. Caruth then crushed his front nose into the wall before spinning down the track.
Caruth was able to use a fast repair to fix his car and stay in contention. One driver elected to stay out under the yellow flag - James Bickford.
On the ensuing restart, Caruth immediately made it back to the front after taking Wood and David Schildhouse three-wide into Turn 1. He then went to the middle line to pass both Smithley and Cabot the next lap. After a strong run through Turns 3 and 4, Alfredo was the first to pass Bickford for the lead after getting a push from Caruth coming down the frontstretch.
The second caution of the night came out on Lap 98 when Krohn drifted up into Bickford down the Nellis Straightaway. As Krohn tried to save his car, Brad Perez turned down into Wood, pinballing him into Krohn. As Wood spun around and Krohn was saving his car, Perez came back up the track into the path of Gary Sexton, ripping the front clip off his car.
On the restart, Alfredo and Caruth raced each other hard. After running side-by-side for two sets of corners, Caruth got the run on the outside line out of Turn 2 to take the lead back on Lap 104. Alfredo was then shuffled back by Cabot for second position when the caution flew for a third and final time.
As the leaders fought for the lead, Sexton was hit from behind entering Turn 3 by Brett Baldeck in the battle for 12th position. Sexton was sent sliding down the track into the path of Slate. While trying to avoid Sexton, Slate bobbled along the edge of the apron. As a result, several drivers were forced to check up hard, including WIl Rodgers and Mellilo. Slate then weaved back up the track into the left front fender of Steve Auffant, sending him and Baldeck immediately into the wall. Melillo, Wood, Devon Henry, Ron Capps, Perez and Bernard Pollard Jr. were also involved.
Overall, six drivers did not finish on the lead lap.
Next time out, Monday Night Racing will be going to Nashville Superspeedway to race in the Super Late Models on July 26. Coverage starts at 7:45 p.m. ET on Podium eSports.