By Noel Lanier For Civitas Media
February 27, 2014
DAYTONA, Fla. — The 2014 NASCAR Nationwide season is officially under way and if Saturday’s Drive4COPD 300 is any indication, the racing will be most exciting.
Regan Smith, driving the #7 Ragu Chevrolet for JR Motorsports narrowly beat Brad Keselowski to the checkered flag and claimed his first win at Daytona. The margin of victory was .013 seconds.
Trevor Bayne finished third, Kyle Busch was fourth and Elliott Sadler rounded out the top five.
The win was Smith’s fourth in the series and redemption as he was in the middle of the horrific last lap crash in the 2013 race at Daytona.
The race also saw NASCAR’s first enforcement in a points events of the “no pushing” rule. In the minds of NASCAR officials, James Buescher was bump-drafting too aggressively after a lap 76 restart and was nailed with a pass-through penalty.
With all in attendance expecting the “big one” during the race, ironically it happened after the checkered flag. And of all the suspects, it was none other than the winning driver’s boss, Dale Earnhardt Jr., who triggered a multi-car wreck.
In his post-race media interview, Dale Jr. offered no excuses.
“We were coming to the finish line. The 42 (Kyle Larson) was shoving me pretty hard. I really didn’t have anywhere to go. I got down on the apron and turned him.”
The finish was the seventh closest in Nationwide Series history and second closest at Daytona to Tony Stewart’s win by .007 seconds in 2011. Rookie pole winner Dylan Kwasniewski ran eighth in his Daytona debut.