Talladega Repays Regan Smith!

Travis Pastrana

(WOMR file photo)

Saturday in Talladega, Alabama, the weather looked ominous, dark, dreary, and rainy as time drew near for the Aaron’s 312 Nationwide Series to start.  It looked as if there was no chance for that race to even start, let alone be completed.  However, the skies parted, the rain ceased, the new-fangled high tech track dryers did their job, and the race was started three hours later!

One of the big story lines Saturday at the Talladega Superspeedway was who was going to bring the field to the green flag.  It was none other than the wild eyed X Games master of over the top stuff, Travis Pastrana!  This was his first time to drive a race car on this storied facility, and the boys at Roush-Fenway Racing gave him the bullet of all bullets!

Pastrana, with the help of his RFR teammate, Trevor Bayne, led the race in the early stages of the race, that was until the competition caution at lap 20.  Leading the first few laps was to be the highlight of Pastrana’s Talladega experience. Shortly thereafter he was to experience getting turned around, and getting stuck into both the inside and outside crash walls down the back straight by Bayne, as they were making a bid to regain the lead.

After that smaller version of “the big one”, racing settled down once again, that is until lap 93.  Kurt Busch was leading, driving the James Finch Phoenix Racing #1, on Lap 93 when contact between Sam Hornish Jr.’s Ford and Eric McClure’s Toyota ignited a spectacular 12-car wreck that sidelined the series leader entering the race (Hornish), among others.

Shortly thereafter, NASCAR then opted to shorten the race by 10 laps because of impending darkness, but four laps after a restart on Lap 101, Joey Coulter’s contact with the outside wall caused the sixth caution and set up the two-lap mad dash to the finish.

You just had to know, with all the past history of these restrictor plate races, at both Daytona and Talladega, that there was an impending catastrophe just waiting to unfold, and most likely right in the tri-oval leading to the checkered flag!

Here is how it unfolded.

Regan Smith was in seventh place entering the final lap, and admitted he didn’t like his chances heading down the backstretch. But with drafting help from Kasey Kahne, Smith was able to catch up to the leaders in Turn 4, and then grabbed the lead in the trioval by quickly cutting through traffic to move from the top of the track to the bottom, threading the eye of the needle, where he was able to outrace Logano and Kahne.

Smith took the lead on the final 400 yards of a green/white/checkered-flag finish and won Saturday’s Aaron’s 312 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Talladega Superspeedway as a last-lap multicar wreck erupted behind him.  It was a reminder of the Sprint Cup race last October, destruction and debris abounding everywhere!  There was strewn wreckage, crumpled sheet metal, and bruised egos all the way from the tri-oval to well past the Start-Finish line!

Smith, however, was the leader at the previous scoring loop when NASCAR called the seventh and final caution an instant before the cars crossed the finish line. Even though Kasey Kahne was first across the stripe, he was nevertheless scored in third place behind Smith and Joey Logano.

Smith, who had a Sprint Cup victory taken from him on an officials’ call at Talladega a couple years ago, took over the series points lead in a race whose start was delayed three hours because of rain.

“That was pretty cool, wasn’t it,” said Smith, who won for the first time this season for the JR Motorsports team, and also took over the Nationwide points lead. “I’m really pumped up.”

“First and foremost, we don’t do it without Kasey back there pushing. So I have to thank him. He stuck with me,” Smith said. “Coming down the backstretch I thought, ‘Ah, we’re going to take fifth or sixth.’ I thought that’s the way it was going to go. I can’t even tell you the order of the guys who were leading. I just saw cars at that point. They got all jammed up, we had a run and I made a move. I wasn’t really sure if I was clear, but I figured it was the only chance I had to win the race.

And so there is this thing called, KARMA!

A few years ago, while racing the #01 for Dale Earnhardt, Inc.,  Tony Stewart, who says that he hates it and never blocks other drivers, ran Smith off into the weeds and grass, well below the double yellow line, as they exited the tri-oval.  Even though Regan Smith beat Stewart to the checkered flag, the win was given to Smoke, because Smith went below the double yellow line.

Notwithstanding the heartbreak of defeat from that earlier Sprint Cup race, Talladega repaid Regan Smith Saturday in the Aaron’s 312 Nationwide race Saturday!


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