One could say that Regan Smith and his team had a bit of the Irish luck today, but then again, JR Motorsports appeared to have perfect timing and pit stops.
The No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet of Regan Smith took the lead when the No. 77 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota of Parker Kligerman hit pit road for fuel with 14 laps to go. Smith remained out in front the rest of the way to claim the win Saturday in the Alliance Truck Parts 250 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.
Kyle Larson finished second in the No. 32 Turner Scott Motorsports Chevrolet, and the No. 33 Richard Childress Chevrolet of Paul Menard finished third.
“I think the other time we started 20th, we won, too,” Smith said. “The TaxSlayer.com Chevy was great today.”
With the win, Smith grew his cushion as the points leader to 58 points over second-place Sam Hornish Jr. Hornish’s No. 12 Penske Racing Ford was retired from the race early when a piece of debris terminally damaged the engine.
The No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet of Austin Dillon started the race from the pole after posting a new track record qualifying lap earlier in the day. His pole start made history, as the Michigan race was the fourth-straight series event in which Dillon started on the pole.
Dillon led most of the laps until he made and unscheduled pit stop to replace a flat left rear tire on lap 71. Dillon had stayed out while most of his fellow competitors pitted during a caution that came out just a few laps earlier. The unscheduled green-flag stop put Dillon a lap down, and he never recovered.
The No. 22 Penske Racing Ford of Joey Logano ran second to Dillon through much of the early part of the race and assumed the lead when Dillon had his problems. To add insult to Dillon’s injury, he fell off the pace, again, with another tire issue in the final five laps of the race.
Logano, the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Elliott Sadler, and Kligerman stayed out on the race track when the yellow flag waved for debris with about 45 laps to go. When the race returned to green, Sadler fell back a few spots while Kligerman moved into second behind Logano.
Kligerman then took over the top spot when the yellow flag waved again in the final 30 laps. Most of the drivers who stayed out during the previous caution pitted this time around for fuel. Kligerman, though, stayed out, again, gambling that rain would end the race prematurely.
The rain didn’t come, though, and Kligerman was forced to give up the lead to head down pit road under green with 14 laps remaining, handing the lead over to Smith. Smith started the race from the 20th spot, but pit strategy and a fast car got him to the front to take advantage of the misfortune and miscalculations of others.
Larson moved into second with the Kligerman pit stop and closed in on Smith in the final laps. But he was unable to actually pass Smith for the win.
“I could inch to him, get a big draft off the front stretch, but then it would get too tight,” Larson said. “We’re going to get one (win) soon.”
The No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Kyle Busch finished fourth, and Trevor Bayne followed up his win from a week ago at Iowa Speedway with a fifth-place finish, his third-straight top-five.
“It’s good to be frustrated by a fifth-place finish,” Bayne said.