Regan Smith's No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet wasn't the first car to cross the start/finish line at the end of the Aaron's 312 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway on Saturday, but he was declared the race winner, nonetheless, as he was shown as the frontrunner when the yellow flag waved for the seventh and final time on the last lap of a green-while-checker attempt to end the race under green.
"I'm happy for Regan and JR Motorsports," Smith's teammate, Kasey Kahne in the No. 5 Chevrolet said. "I'm surprised they threw that caution when, other times, they wouldn't have."
Joey Logano was credited with a second-place finish in the No. 22 Penske Racing Ford, while Kasey Kahne was third in the No. 5 JR Motorsports Chevrolet. Kahne, Smith and Logano crossed the start/finish line for the final time three-wide, with Kahne in front by inches. But the caution had already come out when several cars behind them wrecked, including the No. 99 RAB Racing Toyota of Alex Bowman, the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Brian Vickers and the No. 11 JGR Toyota of Elliott Sadler.
"I saw the caution come out, so I knew I didn't win," Kahne said.
Kahne didn't get the win, but Smith acknowledged an assist from his teammate in getting him from seventh to the win on the final lap.
"We don't do it without the 5 car pushing us," Smith said. "All we were worried about was getting to the front."
The length of Saturday's race underwent a couple of length adjustments in the final laps. The start of the event was delayed by nearly three hours by rain, so NASCAR was racing darkness, hoping to get the full scheduled 117-lap distance in before the sun set on the unlighted track.
During the fifth caution of the race that came out on lap 92, the call was made to shorten the race by 10 laps, from 117 circuits, to 107. Three of those would be added back, though, by a caution for the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Joey Coulter with two laps to go.
The wreck on the final lap wasn't the only "big one" of the race. The fifth caution of the race on lap 92 was the result of a 10-car incident that involved the No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet of Brian Scott, the No. 70 ML Motorsports Chevrolet of Johanna Long, the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford of Trevor Bayne, the No. 33 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet of Ty Dillon, the No. 12 Penske Racing Ford of Sam Hornish Jr, and the No. 30 Turner Scott Motorsports Chevrolet of Nelson Piquet Jr., among others. Some of those drivers, including Hornish and Bayne had previously spent quite a bit of time at the front of the field.
The wreck cost Hornish the points lead. He headed into the race with a one-point lead over Smith. After the race, Smith claimed a 27-point lead over Hornish.
Other drivers who spent time up front included pole sitter Travis Pastrana in the No. 60 Roush Fenway Racing Ford, Logano, Justin Allgaier in the No. 31 Turner Scott Motorsports Chevrolet, Sadler, the No. 77 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota of Parker Kligerman and the No. 1 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet of Kurt Busch.
By the green-white-checker restart, the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet of Austin Dillon had gotten back on the lead lap to restart the race with the lead. He went a lap down early in the race because of a broken spark plug. He remained a lap down for much of the race. Logano restarted second.
Dillon got a push out front by Kligerman, but the Dillon-Kligerman tandem was overtaken by Busch and Allgaier on the last lap. But they were all passed by Kahne, Logano and Smith in the last lap chaos, but before the final caution came out.
While Smith and Kahne were both happy with the JR Motorsports win, Logano wasn't as delighted with his runner-up result.
So close, it’s so frustrating," Logano, last year's race winner, said. "Second sometimes sucks."
Busch finished fourth, and Allgaier rounded out the top-five. Finishing sixth through 10th were Kligerman, Mike Wallace in the No. 01 JD Motorsports Chevrolet, Jason White in the No. 24 SR2 Motorsports Toyota, Jeremy Clements in the No. 51 Jeremy Clements Racing Chevrolet and Austin Dillon.