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USA Today via Reuters

USA Today via Reuters

It was a rivalry between two teammates on the track of Las Vegas Motor Speedway. While Chandler Smith of Joe Gibbs Racing persevered through all the hostilities, it was his teammate John Hunter Nemechek who savored the crowning glory. The JGR driver who runs a double duty both in the Cup and the Xfinity Series netted his tenth Xfinity Series victory on the windy Saturday afternoon.

While Joe Gibbs Racing drivers were left to savor their clinical performance, it was the Stewart-Haas Racing drivers who were left to bite the dust, especially, the defending winner of Las Vegas Riley, Herbst. Although the 1.5-mile track has proved to be conducive for the SHR drivers in the past, Saturday proved to be a tough nut to crack. Owing to this, a palpable disappointment was evident from Herbst’s post-race interview with Frontstretch. 

Riley Herbst laments the loss of victory to Joe Gibbs Racing counterpart

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It was the gusty winds that had promised to be the thorn for the rising stars of NASCAR. The Xfinity Series drivers had stated their anxiousness regarding the prevailing weather conditions, ahead of the race. However, it seemed that nature had accepted her defeat in front of these tenacious drivers and their impeccable performance. Although it was the defending champion of 2023 Cole Custer who earned the pole position, it was the JGR armada that dominated the race on Saturday. 

While Custer settled for the second position in the race, it was an utter heartbreak for his teammate Riley Herbst. The #11 Ford driver had marked his victory on this track during the October race, to mark his first national series career win. To add to his celebration, the victory came on his hometown track. However, his hometown track failed to be favorable in the 2024 season. As a result, he settled for a fifth-place finish in the race. Speaking to the media on his disappointed finish, Herbst stated, “I think we were close.”

Read More: Disheartened Chandler Smith Lets Slip JGR’s Xfinity Muck-Up That Stole His Vegas Crown

“I think we need a little bit more to the Toyotas. Ultimately, I don’t know, it’s frustrating. I felt like it drove good, but just need a little bit more pace. It wasn’t good, I felt like that’s where I gave up the pace to the #20 car [John Hunter Nemechek] and he was just better than me.”

This marked the first top-five finish for Riley Herbst in the 2024 season, while his third straight top-10 finish in Las Vegas. Apart from earning a victory in October last year, he finished eighth during the spring race in March earlier.

Safe to say that many hearts ended up being broken after the Sin City race concluded. And one of them was Chandler Smith. Smith’s relationship with the Las Vegas Motor Speedway has been a complicated affair as the driver has, every single time, fallen short by a very small margin. In last year’s races at the venue, the driver finish P4 and P3. This year, too, he had to settle for a third position finish.

Chandler Smith succumbs to his teammate’s dominance

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Although Chandler Smith swept both stages of the race and had arguably the best car, he fell short of his teammate, Nemechek. He came home third after leading for 79 laps.

In his post-race interview, Smith stated, “We just over-adjusted a little bit. (We were) trying to stay ahead of the race track, and it feels actually like it might have gotten a little colder as well.”

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“It felt like track definitely freed up, and we went in that same direction, thinking it was going to tighten up. So you live and you learn… We were pretty dominant and we just over-adjusted, but I’m happy that a Joe Gibbs Racing car still won,” Smith sighed. 

Also Read: Chase Elliott Admits Failure at His “Worst Track” as HMS Teammates Have Decoded Las Vegas

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While the track of Las Vegas proved to be disheartening for Herbst and Smith, it will be interesting to see how these two drivers fare in the iconic tracks of Phoenix, as NASCAR moves out of the Sin City after Sunday’s Cup Series race.