Smith Wins Southern 500
By: MRN Staff on May 7, 2011 | 11:45 P.M. EST
Regan Smith's first career win came in his 105th start. (Photo: Getty Images)
Regan Smith held off Carl Edwards on a green white-checkered finish to win his first career Sprint Cup Series race in Saturday's Showtime Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.
A decision to stay out and not pit for tires on a late race caution proved to be the winning move for Smith who was able to outrun Edwards to the finish line for his historic win.
When caution came out with nine laps-to-go the leaders ducked into the pits for fresh tires while Smith stayed out for track position. He took the lead with five laps-to-go and was the leader on the final green-white-checkered restart.
As Edwards tried to work around with four fresh tires, Smith was able to hold him off and score one of the biggest upset wins in recent NASCAR history.
Smith crossed the finish line .196 seconds ahead of runner-up Edwards.
“I’m not supposed to win this race. I’ve never even had a top-five. I guess in this series, it just shows anyone can win,” said Smith, whose previous best this season was a seventh at Daytona.
Although he’s had several solid qualifying runs in the early portion of the season, the Furniture Row Racing driver has been disappointed with his finishes – until Saturday night.
“We’ve had some ups and we’ve had some downs, this is an up,” Smith said.
Smith started 23rd in Saturday night’s field, his worst qualifying effort of the season. But he scored his first win in 105 career Sprint Cup Series starts and Furniture Row’s first in 137.
Edwards scored his sixth top five of the season, but felt he had a good shot at winning his second race of the season.
“First of all, congratulations to Regan,” said Edwards. “He earned that. On the restart, he spun the tires a little bit and I thought, ‘Alright, I’m not gonna beat him to the line because I’ve got a good enough car with fresh tires. I can beat him here.’
“And as soon as I started pedaling, Brad (Keselowski) hooked on his rear bumper and they took off. I thought, ‘Oh, man. I’m in trouble now.’ I drove down into turn real hard and Brad did a good job not wrecking underneath me and then we raced hard and he won the race.”
Keselowski also played the same strategy as Smith and was pleased with his best finish of the season.
“We got up front and had a great finish,” Keselowski said. “The bottom line is that we need to make our cars faster. We really have been struggling and probably are a 15-to-20th-place car lately. We just made the right pit call today to be up front at the end. We have a lot of work to do. This is a great finish.”
But while Smith was celebrating in Victory Lane fireworks between Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick broke out on pit road.
The two had tangled in the closing laps of the race and after the checkered flag they stopped their cars at the entrance of pit road. Harvick got out of his car and landed a punch to Busch’s head as he sat behind his wheel. Harvick's car then rolled into the wall after Busch's car pushed it.
“Just uncalled for. Just unacceptable racing,” Busch said of the on-track contact between the two. “You know, it’s in the last couple of laps but I gave him room off of two, I didn’t get the room. Just real unfortunate. I hate we tore up a few good cars there.”
Both drivers were called to the NASCAR hauler after the race although no sanctions against either were announced.
Keselowski, Kasey Kahne and Ryan Newman completed the first five finishers.
Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle, Jamie McMurray and Martin Truex Jr. rounded out the top 10.
Edwards was able to stretch out his point lead to 23 over Jimmie Johnson, who had a frustrating night and finished 15th. Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Harvick round out the top five.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series now heads to Dover International Speedway for next Sunday’s running of the FedEx 400 benefitting Autism Speaks.