Zane Smith took another significant step towards defending his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship on Saturday, employing the right strategy to hold off Kyle Busch and score his second win of the season at Circuit of the Americas. But with a five second advantage at the checkered flag, the biggest highlight of Smith's victory ended up coming in his post-race celebration.
After his cooldown lap, Smith nosed into the frontstretch pit wall to celebrate with a burnout in front of his team before setting up in Victory Lane. Then, as Smith climbed out to celebrate with crew chief Chris Lawson, thick black smoke and flames began to billow from both rear tires on Smith's truck, causing a temporary scattering of the winning team as safety crews scrambled to put out the blaze on the winning truck.
Based on the television broadcast, it appeared that the fire was caused by rubber buildup becoming trapped in the mudflaps at the rear of the truck -- which have been recently mandated on road courses in the event of rain -- and igniting.
Burned 'em down ... literally ... 🔥👀 pic.twitter.com/FVhkCy953W— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) March 25, 2023
"That's a first for me. Man, that's a bummer right there," Smith told Fox Sports. "... That was probably the most hectic Victory Lane celebration I've ever had. I apologize for catching the truck on fire in Victory Lane."
Smith's win was his second of the season, with his first two wins of the year mirroring the first two wins of his championship season in 2022. Smith won at Daytona and COTA to begin 2022, and he has done so again this year as he puts himself securely in the Truck Series playoffs.
The winning truck smoldering was the second strange sight at the finish of Saturday's race. Coming to the finish on his way to a top five finish, Ben Rhodes had the drivetrain fall out of his truck and onto the track coming to the finish line, bringing out the caution once the leaders had taken the checkered flag. Rhodes would limp to the finish line and come home 10th.