Fuel mileage affected the outcome with a late-race crash
DAYTONA BEACH, Florida - Not even remotely a factor all night long, NASCAR Sprint Cup regular Kasey Kahne passed leader Regan Smith at the checkered flag – on lap 102, as the 100-lap race went into overtime – winning his first Nationwide race since 2007. Kahne was driving the number 5 JR Motorsports Chevrolet for team owner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in the Subway Firecracker 250 and Daytona International Speedway.
Kahne got a solid push from Ryan Sieg in the number 39 Chevrolet, boosting him past Smith, who won the February race here. “It was a fun race. I just could not get up front, and when I finally did, it was good,” Kahne said. Smith is Kahne’s JR Motorsports teammate. Rookie Sieg was third, Ryan Reed fourth and Kyle Larson was fifth, Joey Logano sixth.
"It's kind of bittersweet," Smith said. "I'm disappointed, but I'm happy for JR Motorsports with a one-two finish. I'm sure I'll beat myself up until two o'clock in the morning." The margin of victory was just 0.021 seconds, the eighth-closest Nationwide race ever.
Kahne was pleased to fnally be first to the checkered flag "Its been a while since I've been in any victory lane," he said. The last half of the lap I had a ton of momentum, and Ryan Sieg kept bumping me hard wwhich is what I needed. [Crew chief] Ernie Cope called a great race." Kahne was eighth on the restart, "but all the momentum was in my favor."
In fact, "Any momentum is good momentum," said Kahne, who is entered in Saturday's NASCAR Sprint Cup race here. "I'll take it into tomorrow."
It is the sixth win for JR Motorsports this year. "I'm real proud of the company and what they have been able to accomplish and how many gains we've made over the past 24 months," Earnhardt said. "And it shows in the results." He also gave a nod to Ryan Sieg, who "impresses the hell out of me," Earnhadt said, likely elevating Sieg's status enormously. "It's great to see him run well, because I think he does a lot with very little."
Fuel prices typically rise over the Fourth of July weekend, but seldom has a gallon of gas cost more than in the closing laps of the race, as many of the front-runners were trying to stretch their mileage to complete the 100 laps, but it bit second-place driver Chase Elliott in the number 9 NAPA car. As the field came down for the green flag to start lap 97 after a one-car spin by Brendan Gaughan, Elliott’s car stalled, out of gas, and rather than move down below the yellow line, Elliott stayed in the groove, thoroughly backing up the field and causing several front-runners, including Elliott Sadler, to crash into the infield.
The race had only one caution for debris until the closing laps, when Gaughan spun after contact with Darrell Wallace, then on the restart the crash started by Elliott bunched the field. Wallace ended up seventh. The outside line did not come in until the last 30 laps, and even then, and even with Kyle Busch leading the pack, that line could seldom pass the inside line. Busch ended up in 17th.
Smith moved to a 12-point lead in the standings over Elliott Sadler, who finished 21st. Chase Elliott, who finished 20th, is third in points. It was Kahne's eighth Nationwide victory.