DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Regan Smith won the season-opening NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Daytona International Speedway, edging Brad Keselowski by 0.13 seconds in the DRIVE4COPD 300.
It was redemption for Smith, who was leading on the last lap a year ago when he tried to block Keselowski to preserve the victory and triggered a 12-car accident that sent Kyle Larson’s car into the fence. More than 30 people were injured from debris that sailed into the grandstands.
“I think it hurt him deeply that the fans were involved in the accident,” said Dale Earnhardt Jr., who along with his sister, Kelley, and Rick Hendrick owns the JR Motorsports Chevrolet that Smith drove to victory. “I think that he personally and privately (bore) some responsibility for his involvement in the crash, just being in the crash, to have someone in the grandstands get hurt had to affect him tremendously.”
It was Smith’s fourth career Nationwide victory. The race went one lap beyond its scheduled 120 because of a late caution involving Chad Boat and Eric McClure.
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Keselowski said last year’s crash-marred finish never entered his mind during the closing laps.
“I’m not that smart, and I’ve got a terrible memory,” Keselowski said.
Derrike Cope of Spanaway was 37th of 40.