This Time, Regan Smith Can Keep The Trophy
By Jeff Hood | Senior Writer
Darlington, S.C. – The mystique of Darlington Raceway lived up to its reputation Saturday night as cars wrecked and tempers flared in the Showtime Southern 500.
And that was just during the final 10 laps.
Once the dust settled, a near-capacity Palmetto State crowd roared its approval for first-time Sprint Cup winner Regan Smith, whose gamble to stay out on old tires paid off after he managed to edge Carl Edwards during a green-white-checkered finish.
As Smith and his Colorado-based team celebrated in Victory Lane, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch were headed to the NASCAR hauler to discuss their late-race confrontation.
Until Saturday night, the 27-year-old Smith, a native of Cato, N.Y., was best-known for crossing the finish line first in Talladega, Ala. in 2008 only to have the victory taken away after NASCAR officials ruled he went below the yellow line on the final lap to pass Tony Stewart.
When reminded about his near-win three years ago, Smith said he preferred carrying home a trophy from historic Darlington Raceway.
“This is a lot cooler race than Talladega to win, no offense,” Smith said. “It feels a lot different at the end of the day when you say ‘hey, I won a race at Darlington.’
“The names that have won here…the Pearsons, Yarboroughs and on and on.
“I was sitting behind some of those guys today and I was thinking ‘man, these guys are pretty awesome. They are legendary.’ I don’t know if my name deserves to be next to them, but after tonight maybe it does.”
Edwards, who paced the field for 57 laps, appeared to have the upper-hand with fresh tires on his
Ford after lining up on the outside of Smith to begin the final two-lap run to the checkered flag.
But Smith managed to pull away from Edwards’ No. 99 once the green flag was displayed for the final time.
“When I drove down into turn three on the last lap, I sincerely planned on driving right by him but his car stuck a lot better than I thought it was going to,” Edwards said. “So it surprised me and I really thought it was going to be a drag race to the start-finish line and he stayed out front.”
As it turns out, the cushion Smith established on the first lap of the final restart was too much for Edwards to overcome.
“It stuck and I held it wide open in (turns) one and two on the first lap and tried to hold it wide open in three and four also,” said Smith, who led the final 11 laps. “The car was good when I got in clean air.”
Brad Keselowski, who chose track position over fresh tires at the end, wound up holding off pole sitter Kasey Kahne and Ryan Newman to finish third.
“I saw everyone pitting and kind of figured that they would wreck on one of the restarts,” Keselowski said. “I thought that it would come down to a green-white-checkered and it did.
“We caught a good break there. There are no guarantees that it will happen. I was able to hold off
(Kahne) and everybody but (Edwards) at the end.”
Smith said he’s not concerned that his victory will likely be overshadowed by the Harvick-Busch feud, which will be the talk in the sport as it heads to Dover, Del. next weekend.
His lone concern early Sunday morning seemed to be where he’ll place his winning trophy.
“It’s going to sit right where I have to walk by it every single time I get up in the morning,” Smith said. “It’s going to go some place where I don’t miss it all, maybe on the center coffee table in the living room or something.
“And I definitely won’t go to bed tonight thinking about Talladega, that’s for sure.”
– Jeff Hood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments