2011-05-12 / Entertainment

Smith Gets Upset Win At Darlington

By Gerald Hodges
THE RACING REPORTER


Regan Smith Regan Smith DARLINGTON, S.C. – After staying out on old tires, Regan Smith held off Carl Edwards to win Saturday night’s Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway in a dramatic green- whitecheckered flag finish.

“I don’t really know how to put it in words right now – it is so surreal,” said Smith,

“This is the Southern 500 – we’re not supposed to win this thing.”

After he took the checkered flag to win his first NASCAR race, an emotional Regan Smith, with his voice cracking, radioed his crew to tell them how proud and happy he was for the entire Furniture Row Racing organization.

The victory in Sunday night’s race was not only the first for Smith, but also the maiden win for the Denver- Colo.-based team.

The only other time Smith had a brush with victory was at the 2008 fall race in Talladega, Ala., when his apparent win as a driver for Dale Earnhardt Inc. was nullified by NASCAR for passing Tony Stewart below the out-of-bounds yellow line on the final lap.

But Saturday night at the 62-year-old historic Darlington Raceway, Smith was officially referred to as a NASCAR winner.

Brad Keselowski, also on old tires, finished third, with polesitter Kasey Kahne running fourth and Ryan Newman fifth. The remaining top-10 finishers were Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle, Jamie McMurray, and Martin Truex.

Kevin Harvick, who was angry over an accident with fewer than four laps remaining in the race, attempted to punch Kyle Busch. But he wasn’t successful.

With both cars stopped nose-to-tail at the entrance of pit road, Harvick got out of his car and approached Busch’s car. Before he could throw a punch at Busch, Busch whisked off, hitting Harvick’s car, which veered by crewmen and into a wall on the entrance to pit road.

“ He just ran into me twice,” Harvick said. “I was getting ready to knock him.”

Busch, who called Harvick’s racing “uncalled for,” didn’t seem to mind being called to the NASCAR hauler.

“ Good to hash it out now; might as well,” Busch said.

Top-12 Chase contenders after 10 of 36: 1. Edwards- 378, 2. Johnson-355, 3. Kyle Busch-339, 4. Earnhardt-331, 5. Harvick-328, 6. Newman- 317, 7. Stewart-313, 8. Kurt Busch-306, 9. Bowyer-297, 10. Kenseth-295, 11. Allmendinger 287, 12. Biffle-286

“Rowdy” Kyle gets 48th Nationwide win

With a convincing victory in Friday night’s race at Darlington Raceway, Kyle Busch scored his fifth Nationwide Series win of the season and the 48th of his career, leaving him one behind Mark Martin for the career victory lead in the series.

Busch’s No. 18 did not emerge unscathed as it made its way through the melee, having made contact with teammate Brian Scott from behind with nowhere else to go. And he made contact several times with the legendary red-striped Darlington wall with the right side of his Camry. Nonetheless, Busch found the race was coming to him as the closing laps approached.

“It seems to be my best style here at Darlington – beat it up as much as you can and see if you can win with it,” said Busch. “We didn’t mean to. There was that one run there that we all started getting tight and it kind of came out, unexpectedly, and I drove it out into (turn) three one time, and it didn’t stick, and went right into the fence.”

“I love coming to Darlington and it’s a really tough, treacherous place for me. We kind of proved that because the right side doesn’t look so great, but we still were able to win today. It’s cool to be here in victory lane – my first time in the Nationwide Series here in Darlington – so this feels pretty good.”

Busch beat teammate Denny Hamlin to the finish line by 3.677 seconds. Elliott Sadler was third, followed by Nationwide points leader Justin Allgaier and Steve Wallace.

Pit strategy moved Sadler to the front of the field, as crew chief Jimmy Elledge elected to keep the No. 2 Chevrolet out on the track under caution for Michael Annett’s backstretch crash on Lap 89.

Sadler passed Allgaier for the lead on Lap 108, but that didn’t last. Busch, who had restarted ninth on Lap 104 – after an eight- car wreck caused the fifth caution of the race – worked his way through the field and passed Sadler for the top spot on Lap 124.

An eight-car wreck on Lap 95 collected the cars of Carl Edwards and Kasey Kahne, both of whom had battled for the lead early in the race.

Clint Bowyer, Kenny Wallace, Reed Sorenson, Jason Leffler, and Ricky Stenhouse were the remaining top-10 finishers.

Top-10 leaders after 10 of 34: 1. Allgaier-346, 2. Sadler- 341, 3. Leffler-331, 4. Sorenson 328, 5. Stenhouse-322, 6. Almirola-304, 7. K. Wallace- 280, 8. Scott-272, 9. Bayne- 260, 10. S. Wallace-254

Commentary

Each week I get several emails or letters from fans expressing their views on the present state of NASCAR racing.

About the only thing I can share with them are my personal feelings, because they know as much about what NASCAR is up to as I do. NASCAR has never asked for my input before announcing a decision.

I asked two old-timers, men that have been in the sport for many years, to share their thoughts.

The first one is Johnny Benson Sr. of Grand Rapids, Mich. He started racing in 1956. His son raced in the Cup Series, won the 1995 Nationwide and 2008 Truck championships. There isn’t a nicer family in racing.

“ Racing means many things to many people,” said Benson. “First of all, I was a family man that thought more of my family than all the glory I could win on the track by going full time.”

“I used to race quite a bit with Gordon Johncock. At one of our meetings we were talking. I told him we had been through a lot in our time, and he nodded. We talked about how racing was in the past, and all the great moments we’d had. We both accepted the fact that we’d never see those days again. It was a unique experience, where people raced for the love of the sport, and not what they could get out of it.”

Fats Harvison of Laurel, Miss., is considered the “Dean of Southern Sportscasters.” His career began in 1948, and at the age of 85, he can still be found in a broadcast booth, even after working 40 hours at a regular job.

“I think the racing fratenity is the best in the world,” said Fats. “Money is killing the sport. In the 1950s and ‘60s, the amount of money a driver won wasn’t enough for gas money to and from the track.”

“The fans used to love to come and watch the drivers. There wasn’t any souvenir trailers parked outside. The only way a track could get any extra money was at the concession stand.”

“People came and enjoyed the races, without spending a fortune. There was nothing besides hot dogs, hamburgers, cokes and beer to spend your money on. Now, bless god, it costs more for a family to go to the races than it did an entire team 15-20 years ago.”

“I had a nephew that took his wife and two boys to Talladega, and they had to pinch pennies for a long time afterward, because it cost him two weeks pay.

“The average working race fan can’t afford that. My crystal ball doesn’t always work, but I don’t see it improving any time soon. It’s just a sign of the times.”

Weekend racing: It’s on to Dover’s Monster Mile for the Sprint and Nationwide teams. The Trucks are off until May 20.

Sat., May 14, Nationwide race, 11 of 34, Starting time: 2 p.m.; TV: ESPN.

Sun., May 15, Sprint Cup Fedex 400, 11 of 36, Starting time: 1 p.m.; TV: Fox.

Racing trivia question: How many Cup teams does Hendrick Motorsports have?

Last week’s question: Who is the driver of Kevin Harvick’s No. 2 Nationwide car? Answer. Elliott Sadler.

Contact the Racing Reporter at hodges@race500.com.

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