A somewhat surprising outcome to the Drive4COPD 300 featured the outside lane pushing Regan Smith to victory. All day, the outside lane struggled to keep up with the inside lane. The final restart changed all of that though as Smith was able to stay door-to-door with Brad Keselowski on the inside lane. Smith’s win was the first for a Nationwide regular in the season opener since 2001 when Randy LaJoie took the checkered flag.
If you were to say Regan Smith would have ended up in victory lane at the beginning of the race, you would have encountered weird looks. Smith was not a contender early. It wasn’t until a little bit past the halfway point when he was able make it to the front.
Kyle Busch seemed to be the favorite early as he led for a majority of the race. When Smith took the lead on Lap 76, it was from Busch. Smith and Keselowski seemed to be the only two drivers who were able to keep Busch away from the top spot.
Keselowski worked his way to the front with 11 laps to go and he held the lead up until the final few feet before the start/finish line.
On the final restart, it was a drag race between Regan Smith and Brad Keselowski. They matched each other run for run around the track. With drafting help from behind coming to the checkered flag, Smith was able to get a nose in front of the No.22 car and take the victory.
The action didn’t end at the checkered flag, however. As cars began their cool down lap, not everyone slowed at the same rate. When Kyle Larson braked quickly, Dale Earnhardt Jr. ran into the back of him, turning the No.42 car into the pack. Joe Nemechek and Ryan Reed suffered the worst damage as when Nemechek spun up the track, Reed plowed into the back of him.
Other drivers involved included James Buescher, Landon Cassill, Ryan Sieg and Brian Scott. Earnhardt Jr. said in an interview with ESPN that he would help Nemechek out with the damage to his car since he caused the incident.
This was Regan Smith’s third victory in the Nationwide Series over the past two seasons and his first since Michigan last June. Smith was a threat early in the championship chase last season, but he couldn’t stay consistent enough to take the title. He will try to take this early momentum and put it to good use this year in his second attempt at a Nationwide Series title.
Results via ESPN.com
|11||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||Chevrolet||121||16||28||0||0||0|
|26||Scott Lagasse Jr.||29||Toyota||121||22||0||18||0||0|
|38||Robert Richardson Jr.||Chevrolet||12||21||0||6||0||0|