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Zane Smith wins rain-shortened Daytona Truck Series opener

The defending NASCAR Truck Series champion picked up right where he left off, as Zane Smith captured a hectic and rain-shortened season opener at Daytona -- and earned a spot in the Daytona 500.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Zane Smith won Friday night’s wreck-strewn, rain-shortened NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series opener at Daytona International Speedway.

Smith was in front when NASCAR called the race official with 21 laps of the scheduled 100 to go. The race ended at 11:12 p.m. ET.

Smith, last year’s Truck Series champion, won the Daytona opener for the second consecutive year.

MORE: Daytona Truck results, driver points

“I know there’s about a million ways to get one at Daytona, but we’re proving that,” Smith said. “Obviously wanted to go back racing there, somewhat, to duke it out with good friends of mine actually, but, hey, we’ll take a win at Daytona any day we can get it. Just a huge shout-out to everyone at Front Row Motorsports. This whole group, I’ve said it over and over again, they work their guts out, and they prove it. Locked into the playoffs, it’s like a repeat of last year.”

Following Smith at the finish were Tanner Gray, Christian Eckes, Colby Howard and Grant Enfinger. Smith led the final 15 laps and 17 total.

MORE: Kurt Busch remains involved in sport as his recovery continues

“We want to win and I think it’s time for me to do that,” Gray said of his second-place run. “Obviously, with the way our night was going, second was a good night for us. Not as smooth of a race as we would like.”

Former Cup Series champion Chase Elliott was 10th, and action sports star Travis Pastrana, who is scheduled to make his Cup Series debut in the Daytona 500 Sunday, was 13th.

The trucks remained on the track as light rain fell earlier in the race, but officials parked the field on pit road under red-flag conditions when showers across the 2.5-mile track became heavier with 27 laps to go. Smith led the race at that point.

After a delay, trucks returned to the track under caution, but showers and a stubborn lingering mist forced them to pit road again six laps later, and NASCAR made the race official a few minutes later. The trucks had been under a red flag for an hour.

An accident involving several trucks on the backstretch forced a caution flag at the end of the second stage. Stewart Friesen, racing on the outside near the front, attempted a block but wound up running head-on into the outside wall. Several trucks spun out behind him.

MORE: Daytona 500 has frustrated many accomplished drivers

Clay Greenfield lost control of his truck in three-wide racing on lap 28 and triggered a six-vehicle accident. Hailie Deegan’s truck was heavily damaged in the incident. Debris from the accident caused a red-flag delay.

“I saw the 84 (Greenfield) sideways and that was pretty much that,” Deegan said. “I saw him going down the track, so I went up. It was a split-second decision. You just go right or left, and they ended up bouncing back up off another truck, so it is what it is. We know that Daytona is one of those races where you either finish in the top 10 or you end up on the trailer home.”

The middle lane also proved to be the wrong route for Rajah Caruth, who started an accident after he lost control of his truck with 42 laps to go trying to run through the middle.

Stage 1 winner: Christian Eckes

Stage 2 winner: Tyler Ankrum

Who had a good race: Zane Smith had a strong truck throughout the race and moved up front as rain threatened. ... Christian Eckes finished third and won the first stage.

Who had a bad race: A multi-truck accident on lap 28 resulted in Hailie Deegan, Dean Thompson and Clay Greenfield parking their vehicles for the night. ... Stewart Friesen was strong in the middle part of the race but lost control of his truck racing toward the stage-two finish, sparking a multi-truck accident. ... Rookie Rajah Caruth started an accident that involved several trucks on lap 58.

Next: The Truck Series moves on to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for a March 3 race.