DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Kasey Kahne nipped Regan Smith at the Daytona International Speedway finish line Friday night for his first Nationwide Series victory since 2007.
Kahne weaved his way through traffic during a two-lap overtime sprint to the finish, but didn’t appear to be in the mix for a shot at the win as Smith pulled away from the pack. But as the field hurtled through the final turn, Kyle Larson jumped out of line and made it three-wide behind Smith.
Kahne moved into the top lane and, using a push from Ryan Sieg, charged alongside Smith and beat him to the line by .021 seconds.
“Everything I did tonight was wrong — I looked in my mirror and would be like ‘Go’ and then decide not to and it’d be the right move,” Kahne said. “I didn’t really do a whole lot right, but at the end, I got a big push from (Sieg) and was able to get by Regan there. Just had tons of momentum there coming off turn four and had a fast car.”
Smith couldn’t offer a better last-lap strategy then the one he used.
“If I go up any higher, we probably all wreck right there,” Smith said. “I don’t know how to do it any different. I’ll have to study the tape and see where I messed up. I had a pretty good sized gap, but at that point you can’t crack the throttle or drag the brake. I lost just enough momentum that it didn’t quite work out.”
It was the sixth win this season for JR Motorsports, and second consecutive following Kevin Harvick’s victory last week at Kentucky.
“It feels good to win. These guys have won five times already this year, so it’s nice to get one. It was a fun race.”
Smith, one of JR Motorsports’ two full-time drivers, wound up second in his return to Daytona following his victory in February’s season-opener. Despite the defeat, Smith reclaimed the series points lead from Elliott Sadler.
“It’s kind of bittersweet,” Smith said. “I’m disappointed for the team, I’m disappointed for my guys, and selfishly I’m disappointed. But, for JR Motorsports, I’m happy. A 1-2 finish is great. It’s kind of a weird mix of emotions right now.
“I’m happy for the company and frustrated for the 7 team.”
Sieg was a career-best third.
“It was a win for us,” said Sieg. “Hopefully it will bring some more sponsors. It would be nice to have a full-time sponsor, hopefully we turned some eyes.”
It was Kahne’s first Nationwide victory since a 2007 win at Bristol while driving for Ray Evernham.