Throughout the race, Kasey Kahne could be found no where near the front of the field leading laps with his JR Motorsports teammates. However on the final restart with three laps to go, Kahne cut his way through the traffic after starting third and at the line, was only 0.021 seconds ahead of Regan Smith en route to grabbing the victory in the Subway Firecracker 250. It marks Kahne’s eighth Nationwide Series victory and first victory of the season.
For JR Motorsports, it marks their second straight and sixth overall this year. They also keep the streak going of being the only team to win on Friday nights this year in the Nationwide Series.
“The guys brought a great car and everything I did tonight, I was wrong,” Kahne admitted in victory lane. “Just didn’t do a whole lot right, but at the end, had a huge push from the 39, Sieg, and was able to get by Regan did. Just had tons of momentum there and a fast car.”
A late race caution would fly with seven laps to go when Brendan Gaughan went for the spin near the back end of the field, surprisingly involving nobody else. Smith would line up on the outside for the restart, with JRM teammate Chase Elliott to his inside. On the restart with three laps to go, Elliott wouldn’t go as a result of no fuel getting to the pick-up, resulting in the field being stacked up. As a results, Elliott Sadler (who came in with the points lead) and David Ragan would both for a spin in the infield grass.
Entering the green-white-checkered, Smith chose the outside lane as he felt Joey Logano would push better, while Kyle Larson would start to his inside. The pair ran side-by-side for the lead once the green flag waved, with Smith pulling ahead off of turn two on the white flag lap with Logano in toe. Logano would get a run on Smith down the backstretch while Kahne would go up through the middle. Smith would block both attacks and head into turns three and four with the lead. Though coming off four, Smith went to the bottom while Kahne stayed high and nicked him at the line as a result of help from Ryan Sieg.
“The last time Ryan hit me, it really boost me past the 7 (Smith) and I felt really good about it at that point,” Kahne commented. “It means a lot and they’ve put a ton into this. Ernie is a great guy, great crew chief so it feels good to win. These guys have won five times this year so its nice to get one. It was a fun race. I just could not get up there, but once I did, it was strong.”
Regan Smith finished second for his 14th top-10 finish as he takes over the points lead, 12 points ahead of Elliott Sadler.
“I don’t know. I watched the replay and I watched the 42 (Larson) move and if I go up any higher, I’d wreck them all there,” Smith commented. “I’ll have to watch the tape and see what I did wrong there. I lost a lot of momentum there but it’s still good to see a teammate win in Kasey. Disappointed, but part of getting out of here is with the points and nothing bad happening.”
For Sieg, the third place finish marks a career best finish and his second top 10 finish at Daytona. Ryan Reed and Kyle Larson rounded out the top five.
Joey Logano finished sixth despite being tagged for speeding under green, followed by Darrell Wallace Jr., Jeremy Clements, Trevor Bayne and Mike Wallace. Points contenders Chase Elliott and Elliott Sadler finished 20th and 21st, respectively, after their problems.
“We just had a loose left rear wheel and that’s a shame as Kyle and I had a good run going and had gotten ourselves both up there,” Sadler said, speaking of his early race problems. “We were fast and unfortunately, there was a mistake. The tracks that we run good at, we need to earn the most points and we didn’t tonight so now we have a hole to dig out of.”