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Regan Smith wins his first NASCAR Sprint Cup race

by Pete McCole
Sunday, May 08, 2011

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Regan Smith

This time there was no yellow line standing between Regan Smith and his first NASCAR Sprint Cup victory.

Smith and his crew gambled and won, using pit strategy to grab the lead and then holding off Carl Edwards in a green-white-checkered finish to score the Denver, Colorado-based Furniture Row Racing team their first victory in Saturday night’s Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. 

Smith grabbed the lead with 11 laps to after his team elected not to pit when the rest of the field came to pit road under caution and held the top spot through as the final yellow flag came out with five laps to go to set up the overtime finish.

Brad Keselowski finished third, followed by Kasey Kahne and Ryan Newman

Smith leads Edwards down the stretch
It was Smith’s best finish since finishing seventh in the season-opening Daytona 500, and a final vindication for a victory that slipped through his fingers nearly two years ago

“I don't really know how to put it in words right now. It is so surreal right now,” said Smith.

It was Talladega in October of 2008 where Smith rocketed past Tony Stewart on the last lap to cross the finish line first for what seemed like his first win, but shortly after the checkered flag, NASCAR ruled Smith had passed Stewart below the yellow line.

Smith was penalized and moved back to 18 place, and was left spending the next few months trying to figure out how he would ever find vindication.

“I didn't know if I was ever going to get it back,” said Smith. “To get it back at Darlington, absolutely it's vindication.  Winning here to me means more to me than that win could have ever meant.  I don't think I'll go to bed tonight thinking about Talladega, that's for sure

“This is a lot cooler race than Talladega to win, no offense. It just goes down different and it feels different at the end of the day. It feels a lot different at the end of the day when you say 'Hey, I won a race at Darlington'. The names that have won here...the Pearsons, Yarboroughs and on and on, you name it. I was sitting behind some of those guys today and I was thinking 'Man, these guys are pretty awesome. They are legendary'. I don't know if my name deserves to be next to them, but after tonight, maybe it does."

Late in Saturday’s event, it looked like Edwards race to lose.

After trading the top spot with Kasey Kahne for much of the last half of the race. Edwards was leading when Jeff Burton’s engine let go on lap 359, which brought Edwards and most of the field to pit road.

Smith and Keselowski decided to stay out and gain track position, moving up to first and second, respectively.

It was a gamble Elliott Sadler and his team had tried, unsuccessfully, in the Nationwide Series race the night before, as Kyle Busch rocketed past on fresh tires to win the race.

On the restart with five laps to go, Smith spun the tires and looked like a sitting duck, but Keselowski checked up, holding off Edwards before finally getting up to speed. Half a lap later, Edwards darted inside of Keselowski to take second began to close in on Smith when the real fireworks began.

Running three-wide in the middle of the pack, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer made contact, sending Bowyer head-on into the inside wall. Busch and Harvick continued to make contact coming down the front stretch, with Harvick spinning and hitting the outside wall.

The incident set up a three-lap shootout with Edwards on the outside of Smith. On the restart, Smith managed to get a good jump that proved to be just enough to hold onto he lead.

Edwards closed right in on Smith’s bumper on the final lap, with everyone anticipating a bump-and-go maneuver, but Smith just managed to stay ahead of Edwards to the finish, winning by half a car-length.

“Man, I really felt like that was our race to win,” said Edwards. “We had a great lead that we earned all night and it was unfortunate we had that yellow.  Regan is a heck of a guy.  That’s NASCAR racing and as upset as I am to have lost that race, I’m happy for Regan and his accomplishment, but I’ll run that one back a few times in my head.”

Following the race, Harvick and Kyle Busch stopped on pit road with Harvick climbing out of his car to confront Busch.

Before he could reach Busch’s window, Busch hit the gas and pushed Harvick’s car out of the way and continued to the garage, while Harvick’s unmanned no. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet careened into the pit wall.

“When he pulled up next to me, I tried to back up.  I put my car in reverse and tried to back up and I blew reverse out of the transmission,” said Busch. “My choices were limited, I was either going to get punched in the face and then wait for Harvick to get back in his car for me to go or just drive through his car and push it out of the way so I could get out of there and try not to get hit or anything like that.  I hate it that somebody could have gotten hurt, but I was just trying to get away from it and get back to my hauler and go on with my own business.”

Following the incident, both drivers and their team owners were called to the NASCAR hauler, and afterwards Harvick had little to say about what was discussed.

“I don’t have anything really to tell you other than not much,” said Harvick.

When asked if anything had been settled between the two drivers, Harvick simply said, “You saw the end.”

Results

FIN ST CAR DRIVER MAKE SPONSOR PTS/BNS LAPS STATUS
1 23 78 Regan Smith Chevrolet Furniture Row Companies 47/1 370 Running
2 4 99 Carl Edwards Ford Aflac 43/1 370 Running
3 10 2 Brad Keselowski Dodge Miller Lite 41/0 370 Running
4 1 4 Kasey Kahne Toyota Red Bull 42/2 370 Running
5 2 39 Ryan Newman Chevrolet Tornados 40/1 370 Running
6 3 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota Sport Clips 38/0 370 Running
7 9 14 Tony Stewart Chevrolet Office Depot / Mobil 1 38/1 370 Running
8 22 16 Greg Biffle Ford 3M 36/0 370 Running
9 12 1 Jamie McMurray Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops / Tracker 36/1 370 Running
10 29 56 Martin Truex Jr. Toyota NAPA Auto Parts 35/1 370 Running
11 14 18 Kyle Busch Toyota Wrigley's Doublemint 34/1 370 Running
12 5 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet Drive to End Hunger 32/0 370 Running
13 6 9 Marcos Ambrose Ford Stanley 31/0 370 Running
14 30 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet Amp Energy Sugar Free / National Guard 30/0 370 Running
15 19 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe's / Kobalt Tools 29/0 370 Running
16 36 00 David Reutimann Toyota Aaron's Outdoors Mossy Oak 28/0 370 Running
17 13 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Budweiser 28/1 370 Running
18 15 47 Bobby Labonte Toyota Lance Snacks / Tom's Snacks 27/1 370 Running
19 28 5 Mark Martin Chevrolet GoDaddy.com 25/0 370 Running
20 7 43 A.J. Allmendinger Ford Best Buy 24/0 370 Running
21 11 6 David Ragan Ford UPS "We Love Logistics" 23/0 370 Running
22 18 27 Paul Menard Chevrolet Turtle Wax / Menards 22/0 370 Running
23 16 42 Juan Montoya Chevrolet Target 21/0 368 Running
24 41 36 Dave Blaney Chevrolet Golden Corral 20/0 367 Running
25 20 17 Matt Kenseth Ford Wiley X Sunglasses 19/0 366 Running
26 21 38 Travis Kvapil Ford Long John Silver's 0 365 Running
27 25 22 Kurt Busch Dodge Shell / Pennzoil 17/0 364 Running
28 40 32 Ken Schrader Ford H&B Railroad / U.S. Chrome 17/1 364 Running
29 27 09 Landon Cassill Chevrolet Thank A Teacher Today / Security Benefit 0 364 Running
30 32 13 Casey Mears Toyota GEICO 15/1 364 Running
31 26 33 Clint Bowyer Chevrolet BB&T 13/0 363 Running
32 37 34 David Gilliland Ford Taco Bell 12/0 362 Running
33 24 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet Caterpillar 11/0 358 In Pit
34 8 83 Brian Vickers Toyota Red Bull 10/0 332 Running
35 17 20 Joey Logano Toyota The Home Depot 9/0 318 Running
36 35 37 Tony Raines Ford Front Row Motorsports 8/0 172 In Pit
37 42 7 Robby Gordon Dodge Fast Five / Speed Energy 7/0 87 In Pit
38 33 150 T.J. Bell Toyota Bandit Industries 0 67 In Pit
39 31 46 J.J. Yeley Chevrolet Red Line Oil 5/0 34 Out of Race
40 34 60 Mike Skinner Toyota Big Red 0 29 In Pit
41 38 30 David Stremme Chevrolet Inception Motorsports 3/0 27 Out of Race
42 43 87 Joe Nemechek Toyota NEMCO Motorsports 0 22 Out of Race
43 39 66 Michael McDowell Toyota K-Love 1/0 7 In Pit

* Denotes Rookie

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