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Chandler Smith going full-time for Kyle Busch Motorsports in Truck Series

Sheldon Creed describes what it feels like to be a NASCAR Truck Series champion after a career season with GMS Racing.

Kyle Busch Motorsports has announced that Chandler Smith will drive its No. 18 Toyota Tundra full-time next season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

He replaces Christian Eckes, who drove the No. 18 entry and made the Truck Series playoffs this past season. Eckes confirmed via social media that he will not return to KBM in 2021.

Smith ran partial schedules for KBM over the past two seasons. In 2020, he made 12 starts in the team’s No. 51 entry, earning five top-five finishes. His best results were a pair of thirds at Talladega Superspeedway and the season finale at Phoenix Raceway.

“I’ve learned a lot from Kyle the last few years, and I’m thankful to be in a position where I can continue to learn from him,” Smith said in a team release.

“KBM is a top-notch organization, and I know that with the hard work from everyone in the shop combined with the support from Toyota and TRD (Toyota Racing Development) that every time we go to the race track, we’ll have a chance to compete for wins as long as I do my part.”

The release said an announcement on who Smith’s crew chief will be next season is “forthcoming.”

Smith also ran the majority of the ARCA Menards Series schedule in 2020, earning two wins (Phoenix, Lucas Oil Raceway - Indianapolis) and eight top-five finishes in 13 starts.

He has made 33 career ARCA Menards Series starts over the past three seasons, earning nine wins and 10 pole positions.

“Chandler is following the path that other Toyota development drivers have in past seasons where they gain valuable experience driving a limited schedule for a couple of seasons and then graduate to running full time for a championship once they are eligible to do so,” team owner Kyle Busch said.

“He showed that he could run up front on the short tracks right out of the gate in his first season, and at the end of this year, once he started to understand the aerodynamics of racing on the bigger tracks in the Truck Series, he proved capable of producing top fives no matter where we were racing.

“Next season, we expect him to continue his progression and be able to turn some of those second and third-place finishes into wins and put himself into the mix for the championship.”

Smith will partner with 2020 Cup Series rookie John Hunter Nemechek, who returns to the Truck Series next season to drive KBM’s No. 4 Toyota.