The JR Motorsports driver claimed a high-profile win for the organization.
A bump from the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford of Trevor Bayne in the final feet of the DRIVE4COPD 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series season opener at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway on Saturday was just what Regan Smith needed to inch ahead of the No. 22 Penske Racing Ford of Brad Keselowski and take the race win by a margin of 0.013 seconds.
Smith was able to pull his No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet into victory lane to celebrate a win that he saw slip away last year when he was leading on the last lap before a wreck at the start/finish line resulted in a 14th-place finish.
"Last year, after what happened at the start/finish line, I felt terrible," Smith said of the 2013 wreck that sent significant debris through the catchfence and into the grandstand, injuring several fans.
"There's really nothing you can do other than hold it down," Keselowski said of his inability to hold off Smith at the checkered flag.
Busch took the lead on the first lap and dominated the reace. He did relinquish the top spot to the No. 88 JR Motorsports Chevrolet of Dale Earnhardt Jr, though, when Earnhardt opted to stay out during the first caution of the race on lap nine. After staying out, Earnhardt took the lead on the restart and remained up front until he had to head down pit road under green on lap 43.
A 19.6-second pit stop and the lack of a drafting partner put Earnhardt a lap down until the rest of the field began cycling through pit stops around lap 53. With that cycle, Earnhardt was able to get back on the lead lap but was well behind the leaders.
Busch cycled back to the lead after pit stops, but lost the top spot to the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet of Ty Dillon when Dillon beat him off pit road during the second caution of the race with just under 50 laps remaining. But Dillon's lead was wiped away, even before the race restarted, as he was penalized for speeding on pit road. The penalty put Busch back in the lead.
Right after the race returned to green, Smith was able to get by Busch to take the lead for the first time in the race. Smith, Busch and Sadler then ran in the top three spots for several laps before Keselowski was finally able to make the outside line work and moved to the front with 11 laps to go.
One final caution, the fifth of the race, came out with four laps remaining to set the race up for a green-white-checker, two lap sprint for the win, with Keselowski in first and Smith next to him in second. Keselowski, bump drafted by Busch, and Smith, with help from Bayne, raced side-by-side to the finish before Smith got the shot, or bump, of help from Bayne that propelled him to the win.
The victory was rare one for Nationwide Series regulars at Daytona, as Sprint Cup drivers typically dominate the event. Tony Stewart, who won five of the last six and seven of the last nine Nationwide races at DIS prior to Saturday's race, did not enter the 2014 event.
"It's good to come out strong out of the box," Smith said. "This is Daytona. It's hard to win here. It's a good start to the year."
The No. 62 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet of Brendan Gaughan finished sixth, Dillon was seventh, the No. 31 Turner Scott Motorsports Chevrolet of pole sitter Dylan Kwasniewski finished eighth, The No. 39 RSS Racing Chevrolet of Ryan Sieg was ninth and the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet of Kyle Larson 10th.