Regan Smith moved Alex Tagliani out of the way in the final set of corners to win at Mid-Ohio igniting controversy and a debate between stock car and open-wheel racers.
Regan Smith’s crew chief Jason Burdett said he was confident that if his driver saw an opportunity to make a move for the win, he would.
“I knew if he could get there, we could make something happen,” Burdett said.
Nothing like waiting until the last second.
I don’t know what I’m doing yet next year and I want those wins while I can still get them
Regan Smith defending his aggression
Alex Tagliani went just wide entering the final turn of the final lap of Saturday’s Nationwide Children’s Hospital 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and gave Smith the chance he needed.
Smith nudged the right-rear of Tagliani’s No. 22 Ford, then powered past the open-wheel driver to win his first NASCAR Xfinity Series race in 52 starts.
Smith in dire need of a checkered flag
The win couldn’t have come at a better time for Smith, who drives the No. 7 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports. A bad race last week at Watkins Glen (N.Y.), which included a post-race shoving match with driver Ty Dillon, had seriously damaged his championship hopes.
“It feels great. This car was destroyed last week and they rebuilt it in one day. They’ve stuck by me and we’ve had a lot of opportunities to win,” Smith said in Victory Lane.
He (Smith) knows I’m not going to be there next weekend to retaliate give him the payback
“I hate that it happened in that last corner but it’s been, what, a year or eight months since we’ve won – it’s been a long time. I wasn’t going to pass up an opportunity – I’ve been wrecked so many times. I had to do what I had to do right there.”
Smith said there was another reason for his “aggressive driving.”
“I don’t know what I’m doing yet next year and I want those wins while I can still get them,” he said.
The win was the fifth of Smith’s career in the series and first this season.
Dillon finished third, series points leader Chris Buescher was fourth and Chase Elliott was fifth.
Tagliani less than pleased with contact
Needless to say Tagliani – and many of his open-wheel friends on social media – didn’t view the contact from Smith the same way. Juan Pablo Montoya called it "dirty racing" while Tony Kanaan simply tweeted "Really??????"
“If I knew he was going to win like that, probably instead of passing everyone fair-and-square in the race early on, I would probably have pushed him off a bit,” Tagliani said.
“He knows I’m not going to be there next weekend to retaliate give him the payback. It’s very unfortunate for him to win like that but also to celebrate after a win like that, celebrating like this.
“He knows he was not going to win unless he was going to push us off.”