May 4, 2013, 9:21 PM EST
In a green-white-checkered finish that can be best described as Quintessential Talladega, Regan Smith emerged as the winner of the NASCAR Nationwide Series Aaron’s 312 after racing Kasey Kahne and Joey Logano to the stripe while a multi-car wreck ensued behind them on the frontstretch.
Kahne actually won the three-way drag race, but the crash caused NASCAR to bring out the caution to freeze the field. After a review, the series decided that Smith was in the lead at the moment the field was frozen, giving the JR Motorsports driver the win.
“First and foremost, we don’t do it without [Kahne] pushing us,” Smith told ESPN in Victory Lane. “I gotta thank Kasey – he stuck with me at the end. Coming down the backstretch, I thought, ‘Oh, we’re gonna take fifth or sixth and that’s how it’s gonna go.’ The guys that were leading — I can’t even tell you the order they were in, I just saw cars at that point — they got all jammed up in [Turn] 3.
“We had a run and I made a move. I wasn’t really sure if I was clear or not, but I figured it was the only chance I had to win the race. I wanted to make that move and see if it would pay off for us. It did.”
Kahne, who wound up finishing second, admitted that he was “surprised” that NASCAR opted to throw the yellow at that point instead of having the field race back to the line.
“So many times, they wouldn’t in that situation,” he said to ESPN. “And I won at the finish line…We had a really good [car] and worked with Regan really well, and with a few different guys throughout the race. And we were right there.
“NASCAR always switches it up, so you never know what’s going to happen. I was surprised they threw the caution; I thought we would’ve went to the line. But I saw the caution before I got to the line, so I knew I didn’t win.”
With darkness setting in and the lack of a lighting system at their disposal, NASCAR shortened the event to 107 laps after Talladega’s infamous “Big One” hit on Lap 94 following contact between Sam Hornish Jr. and Johanna Long. The field saw the green come back with seven laps remaining, but Joey Coulter was spun on the frontstretch and hit the wall with three to go to set up the G-W-C finish.
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