Regan Smith was able to find redemption at Daytona International Speedway Saturday. A year after he was involved in a horrific crash on the final turn of the final lap, Smith was able to win a drag race out of the final corner of the final lap of the NASCAR Nationwide Series Drive4COPD 300 and beat Brad Keselowski by less than a fender length.
Kyle Busch took the lead for the first 15 laps until the first caution for a blown engine from Harrison Rhodes. Dale Earnhardt Jr. stayed out while the lead pack pitted. Earnhardt would lead until he had problems during a later pit stop that left him deep in the field. Busch would lead again until lap 76 when Keselowski bumped Smith to the lead on the outside. From there Smith took command.
A fourth caution of the day came out on lap 101 when Ryan Seig spun. It set up a 17 lap run to the finish with Smith in the lead, Busch second. The duo quickly led the top four on the bottom of the track, while Keselowski tried to put together a line to make a run on the high side. Further back in the field cars spread out three wide.
With 12 laps to go, Keselowski had brought the outside line up to third. Heading into turns 3 and 4 Keselowski was able to shoot past and dropped into the lead; Smith fell into second. The outside line fell back again and Keselowski settled into the lead.
With 6 laps to go the outside line led by Trevor Bayne began to creep forward. With 5 laps to go Chad Boat spun bringing out a caution and setting up a green white checkered flag finish.
Keselowski led to the start with Regan Smith on the outside. Busch lined up behind Keselowski. Keselowski and Smith raced side by side, past the white flag and onto the last lap; both were still side by side on the final lap and as they exited the final corner. Smith was able to inch ahead of Keselowski by .013 of second for the win at the line.
“Its good to come out of the box strong like this,” Smith said. “This thing was fast.”
Keselowski said at the end he was giving it all he had.
“There’s nothing you can really do,” Keselowski said. “(You) just hold it down and hope it’s enough.”
“Regan was just a little stronger,” he added. “That’s racing.”
The year prior, Smith was leading over Keselowski exiting turn 4 when the two got together and set off a multi-car crash that sent cars and debris into the fence injuring several fans.
“After what happened at the start-finish line last year I felt terrible,” Smith said Saturday. “I was glad to see the checkered flag and not be in a wreck.”
Smith’s team owner, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was also pleased his driver was able to survive in one piece.
“After they got so close last year, I’m just so happy for Regan,” Earnhardt said. “He was so stressed out after last year.”
Bayne was third, Busch held on for fourth, Elliott Sadler was fifth. Brendan Gaughan was sixth, Ty Dillon seventh, polesitter Dylan Kwasniewski was eighth and Ryan Seig recovered from his spin to finish 10th.