Regan Smith Wins at Daytona in Close Finish
By Ryan O`Hara On Sat, Feb. 22, 2014
By a narrow margin, with a push from Trevor Bayne, Regan Smith edged Brad Keselowski by 0.013 seconds to win the season-opening Drive4COPD 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Daytona International Speedway.
Smith’s victory was his first ever at Daytona, his fourth series win, and his second on a plate track. For Hendrick Motorsports, it was their 300th win as a company. The driver of the No. 7 RAGU Chevrolet ended a five race winning streak for Joe Gibbs Racing drivers in NASCAR, dating back to Denny Hamlin’s season finale win at the Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, last November. “It still does not feel real,” Smith said. “It’s a very special moment.”
Smith, also reflected, on last year’s accident, which injured several fans. “No one felt worse than me on Sunday morning, but I felt that we learned a lot.”
Trevor Bayne finished in third. Bayne was asked about how different the Daytona 500 will be compared to today’s race. “Lane choice,” said the 2011 Daytona 500 champion. “The lane with the most cars will be the fastest and most guys will choose the bottom lane because it’s the fastest way around the race track.” Bayne also added that the race will be very similar to the Sprint Unlimited and the Budweiser Duel qualifying races.
Brad Keselowski was greeted by Trevor Bayne in the media center with a short, little jab. “Should have chose the top lane there, bud.” Indeed, a very awkward response came from the 2012 Sprint Cup Series Champion, as Keselowski did not seem, at all, amused. When asked on whether he would want to be first or second on the final of the 500, Keselowski stated, “I want to lead every lap.”
With that being said, Dylan Kwasniewski and Kyle Larson led the field to the green flag. However, on the opening frame, Kwasniewski and Larson fell like rocks. Kyle Busch, with a push from Elliott Sadler, on the bottom lane, stormed to the lead.
On lap nine, Harrison Rhodes blew an engine. His teammate, Jason White, spun into the grass to avoid wrecking two-time Daytona 500 champion, Matt Kenseth, who had trouble early. Kenseth nearly hit Scott Lagasse Jr. exiting his pit stall, then made contact with Chad Boat, the son of former Indy Car driver, Billy Boat. Kenseth was never a factor and finished 14th.
Jamie Dick stayed out to claim the lead once the race was back underway. However, Kyle Busch, on lap 15, quickly darted to the outside, leaving Jamie Dick on the inside, and pushing Dale Earnhardt Jr. to the lead.
Jr. led for the next 28 laps, but pitted early for his green-flag stop on lap 42. However, Jr. did not pit with any of the drivers he was drafting with. The only driver that came in with him was Joe Nemechek in the No. 87 car. A slow pit stop proceeded to derail Jr., who also lost Joe Nemechek in the process. After pit stops had cycled through, Jr. was shown in the 20th position.
On lap 70, the safer barrier in turns one and two became dislodged and a caution was thrown. Ty Dillon won the race off pit road, but also was busted for speeding while entering. As a result, Dillon lost the lead, and was sent to the tail-end of the longest line.
Finally, on lap 76, Regan Smith finally got past Kyle Busch, with a bump from Brad Keselowski. Smith dove inside to protect his lead.
NASCAR banned the tandem draft. This means that drivers are not allowed to push, lock on another driver’s bumper for too long, or a penalty will be issued. On lap 86, James Buescher received a penalty, despite replay evidence showing that Buescher was not guilty. Buescher went on to finish 16th.
On lap 99, Ryan Sieg spun, as he came across the nose of Eric McClure, bringing out a caution. McClure was also involved in the next caution, on lap 116. Chad Boat tried to get to the inside of McClure as they entered turn 3, but there was not enough room, causing them both to spin, bringing out a caution, and setting up a green-white-checkered finish. Before the caution had come out, Trevor Bayne had pushed Brad Keselowski to the lead.
Trevor Bayne’s push to Regan Smith was just enough to hold off Brad Keselowski, who was getting a push from Kyle Busch.