DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Regan Smith got the bump-drafting help he needed from Trevor Bayne and beat Brad Keselowski to the finish line by .013 seconds to win February's season-opening NASCAR Nationwide Series DRIVE4COPD 300 at Daytona International Speedway.
The finish was the seventh closest in NASCAR Nationwide Series history and second closest at Daytona. The closest finish at the 2.5-mile superspeedway was Tony Stewart's victory by .007 seconds in 2011.
Rookie polesitter Dylan Kwasniewski ran eighth in his Daytona debut.
Smith was pleased with the win compared to the disaster of the previous year at Daytona when he crashed. "This time I wanted to see the checkered flag in a proper manner at Daytona and not be in the middle of a wreck," Smith said.
Regan Smith was pleased with the win compared to the disaster of the previous year at Daytona when he crashed.
"This time I wanted to see the checkered flag in a proper manner at Daytona and not be in the middle of a wreck," Smith said.
In a race that went one lap beyond its posted distance of 120 laps because of a late caution involving Chad Boat and Eric McClure, Smith got help from Bayne in the outside lane and crossed the finish line in his No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet less than three feet ahead of Keselowski, who was drafting with fourth-place finisher Kyle Busch.
Bayne ran third, as he and Smith side-drafted Keselowski and Busch in the inside lane just enough to give Smith a minuscule advantage. And Smith took the opportunity and ran with it.
The victory, Smith's fourth in the series and his first at Daytona, was a race of redemption for the 30-year-old driver, who was right in the middle of the last-lap crash in the 2013 season opener.
After the field took the checkered flag, Dale Earnhardt Jr. triggered a multi-car wreck by turning the No. 42 Chevrolet of 10th-place Kyle Larson.
Earnhardt offered no excuses for the mishap.
"We were coming to the finish line," Earnhardt said. "The 42 (Larson) was shoving me pretty good. I really didn't have anywhere to go. I got down on the apron. I was trying not to come back up on the race track, get quarter-paneled, have a big wreck there."
Earnhardt added stoically, "We were slowing down. I was looking all around trying to figure out where everybody was at. (I) ran into the back of the 87 (Joe Nemechek) and 39 (Ryan Sieg). Totally my fault. Really wasn't paying attention. I hate it for Joe and those guys 'cause they don't need to be tearing up race cars."
Regan's Smith's narrow victory at Daytona comes in at No. 31 in the HeadlineSurfer.com countdown of the top 100 stories of 2014.
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