Smith holds off Keselowski for Nationwide win at Daytona|
Daytona Beach, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - Regan Smith beat Brad Keselowski in a
photo finish to win Saturday's 300-mile Nationwide Series season-opener at
Daytona International Speedway.
A caution in the closing laps set up a green-white-checkered finish.
Keselowski held the lead for the final two-lap restart, but Smith, using the
outside lane, pulled ahead of Keselowski just before they approached the
finish line. Smith beat him by only 0.013 seconds to claim his fourth career
Nationwide victory, including his first at Daytona.
Smith got pushing help from Trevor Bayne, while Kyle Busch pushed Keselowski
during the final lap.
"It's good to come out of the box strong like this," Smith said. "You know,
this is Daytona. It's tough to win here. This [car] was fast. Once I got out
in front, I was able to stay out there and take a push from guys."
It was the second closest finish in a Nationwide race at Daytona and the
seventh closest all-time in the series. The finish was almost identical to
Friday night's Camping World Truck Series event at this track, where Busch
edged Timothy Peters to the line by just 0.016 seconds.
"We had a really fast [car], but it wasn't quite enough," Keselowski said.
"The push that Trevor gave Regan was just a little bit stronger than the one
Kyle gave me. That's just part of racing."
Smith, a Nationwide regular, is in his second full-season as driver of the No.
7 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports, a team co-owned by Sprint Cup Series superstar
Dale Earnhardt Jr. This past year, Smith finished third in the Nationwide
point standings and won two races, including Talladega, a track similar to
Smith held the lead during the final lap of last year's Nationwide season-
opener at Daytona, but he was hit from behind by Keselowski and crashed into
the outside wall on the frontstretch. He collected nearly a dozen drivers
running behind him in a tight pack. Kyle Larson flipped around and sailed into
the catchfence. Flying debris from Larson's car and the fence injured dozens
of spectators in the grandstands.
"After what happened at the start/finish line last year, I felt terrible,"
said Smith, who finished 14th in the 2013 race. "It's a situation where you
can't change it. Thankfully, everybody was able to come back from the injuries
and be OK. I wanted to see the checkered flag in a proper manner at Daytona
and not cause the wreck there."
Bayne finished third, and Busch, who led the most laps with 44, placed fourth.
Elliott Sadler was fifth.
Brendan Gaughan took the sixth spot, followed by rookies Ty Dillon and Dylan
Kwasniewski, who started on the pole. Ryan Sieg and Larson completed the
Earnhardt finished 11th after leading 28 laps.
"I'm just happy for Regan," Earnhardt said. "He was really stressed out over
last year and how close he came to winning this race. It's a great boost for
our company. We're headed in a good direction. Hopefully, this is the start of
something for us."
JRM restructured its personnel for Smith's No. 7 team during the offseason,
with Ryan Pemberton taking over crew chief duties. Smith and Pemberton
previously worked together during Smith's opening season in Sprint Cup in
The Nationwide race at Daytona featured five cautions, including a few for
accidents involving no more than three cars. Eric McClure and rookie Chad Boat
made contact on lap 116, which prompted the green-white-checkered finish.
After crossing the finish line, several drivers bumped into each other and
spun out. Ryan Reed slammed hard into the back of Joe Nemechek, which severely
damaged both of their cars. There were no injuries.
02/22 18:09:27 ET