WINCHESTER, Ind. – The 50th running of the Winchester 400 Sunday at Winchester Speedway went out with a bang as Sammy Smith emerged as the race winner in a chaotic finish.
Because of an issue with tire wear, event officials called for competition cautions every 50 laps, meaning tire strategy became a factor at the finish.
Jack Smith, who only accepted the ride in the Team Platinum Chevrolet this week, took the lead of the Lucas Oil Winchester 400 on lap 333 with an outside pass of Sammy Smith. The caution flag waved on lap 378 and all the lead lap cars except for Jack Smith pitted for tires.
Another caution flag waved when Stephen Nasse spun on the front straight while trying to run down Jack Smith, which set up a five-lap sprint to the finish. Sammy Smith quickly moved into the second spot by passing Eddie VanMeter and closed on the rear bumper of Jack Smith.
On the final lap Jack Smith got loose coming off the second corner and Sammy Smith made his move to the inside.
Before the two leaders reached turn three there was contact, with Jack Smith making contact with the outside retaining wall to bring out the caution flag. Sammy Smith was sent to the tail of the lead lap by officials for his role in the incident.
Jake Garcia started on the point for the two-lap dash to the checkered flag and scrapped the turn two wall during the restart, which allowed Sammy Smith to take the lead and the victory over Nasse and VanMeter, with Garcia coming home in fourth. They were the only cars on the lead lap.
Georgia driver Dusty Williams started 22nd in the field and drove to a fifth place finish, one lap behind the leads.
“It was a good call on tires,” Sammy Smith said after his victory, worth $25,000. “I had a good run on the inside of him (Jack Smith) and he came down on me.”
Nasse said the tires kept coming apart on his car, particularly in the middle stages. He came from three laps down to the leaders to challenge for a second Winchester 400 victory.
“I couldn’t push it at all,” Nasse said. “The vibration on the front straight was terrible.”
VanMeter ran most of the race without power steering.
“We pitted for tires with 20 laps to go but I couldn’t turn the car in the corners,” he said.
An obviously upset Jack Smith was credited with a sixth place finish.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said of the last lap incident. “There was no respect.”
It was a tough day for race leaders with early leader Chandler Smith having an electrical issue while leading, Dalton Armstrong lost an engine and Hunter Jack had a left-front suspension brake while leading.
Jack’s crew made repairs, allowing him to drive to a 12th-place finish, which was good enough to win the ARCA/CRA Super Series title.
Anderson’s Josh Ebbert got caught up in an incident on lap 79 with Carson Hocevar with the car of J.P. Crabtree flipping in turn two. Crabtree was unhurt in the crash.
Sammy Smith led four times for a race high 174 laps.
The race featured 13 lead changes among seven drivers, was slowed by two red flags and 13 caution periods for a total of 64 laps.
Sammy Smith, Stephen Nasse, Eddie VanMeter, Jake Garcia, Dusty Williams, Jack Smith, Albert Francis, Chandler Smith, Rick Turner, Dakota Stroup, Colby Lane, Hunter Jack, Corey Heim, Cody Coughlin, Dalton Armstrong, Cayden Lapcevich, Kyle Crump, Carson Hocevar, Josh Ebbert, J.P. Crabtree, Tommy St. John, Chris Munson.