Garrett Smithley

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Mother’s tears a celebration of a journey more than a decade in the making

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DAYTONA BEACH, Florida — After her son Garrett raced to a career-high fifth-place finish in Saturday’s quintuple-overtime Xfinity race, Bethanie Smithley could not contain her emotions.

Memories flashed to when he wanted to race even though neither parent knew anything about the sport other than what they viewed from the stands. Then there was the sign that what they were doing was the right thing. And the memories of how pillow cushions helped Garrett’s racing career.

All that was before Garrett joined JD Motorsports, an underfunded team that is at the track each weekend but not often noticed.

He overcame an early spin and avoided the late crashes to collect his third career Xfinity top-10 finish, spurring a family celebration on pit road afterward.

“It’s the satisfaction that going out on a limb for your child when you don’t necessarily want to go out there … is worth it,’’ Bethanie said between tears.

“It’s the payback. It’s the affirmation that we made the right decision and that all the sacrifices we made, the family vacations we didn’t take, it was worth it.’’

Garrett Smithley, a 25-year-old from Ligonier, Pennsylvania, pointed to the Daytona International Speedway stands and about where he and his family sat 12 years ago.

A passion grew.

He started racing in 2007 in Bandolero cars.

“I had to learn to tow a race trailer,’’ Bethanie Smithley said.

“I had to learn how to be crew chief,’’ said RK Smithley, Garrett’s dad.

One of the requests the family made before buying a Bandolero car was that they be showed how to set it up.

“We could have never dreamed this would turn into a profession,’’ Bethanie said. “We thought it would be a short-term hobby. Every time he’s moved forward there’s just been some provision that I felt was divine providence for him to be a race car driver.’’

The first time Garrett went to test a Legends car, they pulled up to the shop. When Bethanie opened the truck door to exit, Bill Elliott stood 2 feet away.

“He was one of our favorite NASCAR drivers,’’ she said. “To me that was kind of a sign that it’s going to be OK that your son wants to go racing. All along the right person has come along at the right time to help him move forward.’’

While driving a No. 43 Legends car, Garrett’s talent was spotted and he was invited to a Richard Petty Driver Search.

Former Daytona 500 winner Derrike Cope saw Garrett at a test, leading to Garrett’s ARCA debut in 2014. He shared a car at the test with another driver, who was much bigger. Garrett’s parents brought pillows from their hotel couch so he could fit in the seat.

The following year, Garrett made his Camping World Truck Series debut with the Mittler Brothers, the same team Carl Edwards made his series debut with in 2002. Garrett is in his third season with JD Motorsports in the Xfinity Series.

“Johnny went on a limb,’’ Garrett said. “He had some better deals. He said I really want you to drive my 0 car.’’

As often happens the night before the first race of the season, Garrett couldn’t sleep Friday. He posted a picture on Twitter after midnight of the lit Daytona stands with the note: “Never taking this for granted.’’

“You come so close to not making it and not making it and not making it … this feels really special,’’ Garrett said.

Enough to make a mother cry.

“Along the way somebody has always noticed that talent,’’ Bethanie said. “I fully believe it will lead to him being in Cup one day. I don’t know how long.

“I also say because he’s done so well at these superspeedways, I think one of these days he’ll be in Victory Lane, although right now it feels like we’re there.’’

Instead, she and RK stood behind pit wall. The sun faded behind the stands and sweepers cleaned pit road. A few people pushed team pit boxes into position to be loaded onto trucks and head to the next race. RK and Bethanie were alone.

As they walked away, she turned to one person working on the pit boxes that she knew.

“I need a hug.’’

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Race results, point standings after Xfinity Series opener at Daytona

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Tyler Reddick began his tenure with JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series by coming out on top in the closest finish in national NASCAR series history.

Reddick beat Elliott Sadler by 0.000 to win the season opener at Daytona International Speedway. It is his second career win.

The top five was completed by Ryan Reed, Kaz Grala and Garrett Smithley.

Click here for the race results.

With his win, the 22-year-old driver leaves Daytona with a nine-point lead over Sadler.

Completing the top five in the standings are Spencer Gallagher (-11), Ryan Truex (-15) and Reed (-16).

Click here for the point standings.

Tyler Reddick wins Xfinity Series opener at Daytona in overtime finish

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Tyler Reddick won the Xfinity Series opener at Daytona after a track record 12 cautions, a record five restarts in overtime and one red flag period.

Driving the No. 9 Chevrolet, Reddick beat his JR Motorsports teammate Elliott Sadler in the closest finish in national NASCAR series history, earning his second Xfinity win.

The margin of victory was 0.0004.

“That was insane. I just saw a picture of it like 10 minutes ago. It’s not much,” Reddick said in the winner’s press conference. “I guess it was just enough, just soon enough.”

The previous closest finish was .001 in the 1995 Truck Series race at Colorado National Speedway, won by Butch Miller over Mike Skinner.

The top five was completed by Ryan Reed, rookie Kaz Grala and Garrett Smithley.

“Feels amazing,” Reddick told Fox Sports 1. “This was a hell of a way to start off the year with JR Motorsports. … This is a hell of way to get my second win, my first win with JR Motorsports.”

Reddick is now qualified for the Xfinity playoffs.

“I think it’s an amazing opportunity,” Reddick said. “It’s just going to take a little bit of time to het honed in. I guess we’re getting along good right off the bat. We were having some problems all day long. We were having some issues with the motor. I don’t know exactly what it was, but it held on all race long. It was getting worse at the end.”

Reddick, 22, led 11 laps in the race. None of them were in regulation.

Overtime was setup by a spin by Sadler with three laps to go in the scheduled distance on the backstretch. Sadler had previously been black flagged along with Chase Elliott for locking their bumpers together for too long with 26 to go.

Sadler was able to mount a comeback thanks to a crash with 22 to go.

It resulted in his third runner-up finish in the last three restrictor-plate races.

“I was trying to figure out how close to get to (Reddick),” Sadler told Fox Sports 1. “My spotter was telling me the 16 (Reed) was coming too, so I didn’t want to leave him the outside. Man, I really want to win this race. Most eventful race I’ve ever been a part of. Spun there twice. Got black flagged for absolutely no reason in my opinion but that’s the way it goes. … I’m proud that a JR Motorsports car went to victory lane, but I wish it was us today.”

Originally scheduled for 120 laps, the race ended after 143 laps. That’s a series record at Daytona.

The first overtime attempt was marred by a massive wreck on the backstretch that involved 18 cars.

The race marked the 100th for Xfinity as the series sponsor.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Kyle Larson

STAGE 2 WINNER: Chase Elliott

MORE: Race results and point standings

WHO HAD A GOOD DAY: Garrett Smithley bounced back from a late-race accident to earn his first top five in his 67th start. His previous best result was eighth in this race last year … Ryan Reed earned his sixth top five. Four have come at Daytona … Spencer Gallagher finished a career-best sixth in his 41st start. Gallagher had been involved in a one-car accident on the second overtime restart … Jeff Green finished 11th for his best finish since placing 10th at Talladega last year.

WHO HAD A BAD DAY: In his first start on an oval in Xfinity, Austin Cindric started a eight-car wreck in the tri-oval as the field began Lap 11. The wreck eliminated Cindric and Christopher Bell … With 14 to go in the original distance, the caution waived for separate spins by Garrett Smithley and Michael Annett in the tri-oval. Smithley was turned by Ryan Truex and Annett was turned by Brandon Jones … Drivers included in the massive crash on first overtime restart: Kyle Larson, Joey Logano, Chase Elliot, Joey Gase, Aric Almirola, Justin Allgaier, Austin Dillon, Matt Tifft, Jeremy Clements, Joe Nemechek, Brandon Brown, Cole Custer, Daniel Suarez, Brandon Jones, David Starr, Jeff Green, Dylan Lupton and Caesar Bacarella.

NOTABLE: Reddick’s win is his second at Daytona. He won the 2015 Truck Series opener at the track. The average age of the field was 28 years, 10 months and 11 days, the youngest ever at Daytona … The 357.5 miles in the race is the second longest race in series history in terms of miles.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “When I have enough fuel, yes.” – David Elenz, crew chief for Tyler Reddick when asked if he likes unlimited restarts in overtime.

QUOTE OF THE DAY 2: “Either way, fine with me.” – JR Motorsports owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. after being told the margin of victory was the closest in history.

WHAT’S NEXT: Rinnai 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway at 2 p.m. ET on Feb. 24 on Fox Sports 1.

JD Motorsports completes Xfinity driver lineup with Garrett Smithley

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Garrett Smithley will return to JD Motorsports with Gary Keller for a third season, the Xfinity Series team announced Wednesday. The 25-year-old Smithley will again drive the No. 0 car.

He completes JD Motorsports’ driver roster for 2018. Smithley’s teammates will be Ross Chastain, Vinnie Miller and Matt Mills.

“I’m so excited to be back with JD Motorsports with Gary Keller this season,” Smithley said in a statement from the team. “We’ve had two very successful seasons together and to be given the opportunity to continue to build on that is something I do not take for granted.

“Each and every year JD Motorsports with Gary Keller grows and improves. This offseason has been an extremely strong one for this organization, and I knew that if the opportunity presented itself to return, I wouldn’t pass it up. I can’t thank Johnny Davis and Gary Keller enough for the opportunities they have given me and this entire team for all that they do. We’re a family, and we’re in this together. It will be awesome to work with Ross once again, as well as Vinnie and Matt this season.”

Smithley finished 21st in the points last season. He finished a season-best eighth in the season opener last year at Daytona International Speedway.

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Ross Chastain gives his side of Brendan Gaughan tangle, says he was hit in back of head

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The war of words that followed the scuffle between Ross Chastain and Brendan Gaughan after Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Texas continued Tuesday morning.

Gaughan gave his side of the incident on Sunday during the SiriusXM NASCAR Radio “Fantasy Racing Preview” show, which he co-hosts.

Tuesday, Chastain appeared on TMD and said he was hit several times by Gaughan and several members of his team, including being blindsided and punched at least once in the back of the head.

Chastain also revealed that a crew member for teammate Garrett Smithley – which Chastain did not identify – was punched in the back of the head and taken to a local hospital. Chastain said the crew member was back in the shop working Tuesday.

Here’s Chastain’s side of the story:

“When we pulled down off the track, for some reason we pulled behind victory lane, which didn’t help things because it was dark and no lights back there,” Chastain said. “As I was getting out of the car, I was kind of surprised to see him (Gaughan) and a legion of RCR guys. I thought there was only a couple when I first looked.

“By the time he had me by the neck, I was still coming out of the car with my feet in my race seat and I was sitting on the door, I realized there was about 20 guys there surrounded us, and I had three guys at the time.

“It was ugly. It was not something that was pretty to think back on. They definitely had the numbers and it showed. I had a couple guys from the 0 car (Smithley) jump in to help, and I’m thankful for that.

“They really did keep me and my guys from probably getting hurt to any extent.”

Chastain thought things had ended at that point, only to see them resume.

“We thought we had it calmed down and I got hit in the back of the head and taken down into a golf cart and rolled around a lot,” Chastain said. “I don’t know if it was just fists or stomped on a little bit. That’s pretty scary stuff. Definitely had a lot of things going through my mind at that point on how to get out of that situation.

“But a lot of things flash before your eyes when that’s happening. Luckily, some of my guys came back, realized where I was at because we all got separated there in the darkness and the crowd of people, and got me out of that situation. That was relieving to see their faces. That was pretty much it there.

“A lot happened real quick and definitely not impressed by the amount of people that came down there with Brendan and went to wailing. I got hit in the back of my head and one of the 0 guys did, as well.

“It’s some scary stuff, for sure. I’m glad the cameras weren’t there because that’s not the kind of publicity the sport needs at all. I’m all for arguments and stuff, but it was ugly and that’s not something I want people seeing.”

NASCAR officials called both drivers to the hauler after the incident, but officials did not make any statements regarding the two drivers.

Of his tangle with Chastain, Gaughan said on SiriusXM, “It isn’t the first issue that we’ve had and the first issue that others have had (with Chastain), and I finally just had enough. Should I have done something differently? Maybe, but at this point in my life, I’m kind of to the (point of) don’t care.”