Regan Smith pushes Alex Tagliani out of way to steal Xfinity win at Mid-Ohio

3 Comments

Regan Smith doesn’t know where he’ll be next year.

It’s that fact, in addition to a 52-race winless streak in the Xfinity Series and a 57-point deficit in the driver standings, that drove him to use his bumper on pole-sitter Alex Tagliani and win the Nationwide Children’s Hospital 200 at Mid-Ohio.

Smith forced Tagliani’s out of his way two corners from the finish and took his first series win since the 2014 season opener at Daytona.

“I don’t what I’m doing next year, yet, at this moment,” Smith told NBCSN. “That’s the other reason for the aggression driving. I want those wins when I can still get them.”

Competing in his only Xfinity race of the year for Team Penske, Tagliani wasn’t pleased with Smith’s driving temperament, which kept him from earning his first series win in eight starts.

“If I knew (Smith) was going to win like that, probably instead of passing him fair-and-square early on in the race, I probably would have pushed him off a bit,” Tagliani told NBCSN. “It’s really unfortunate to win like that, but also to see him celebrate after a win like that…he knows he wasn’t going to win unless he pushed us off.”

The JR Motorsports driver won with a No. 7 Chevrolet completely rebuilt after being in two wrecks at Watkins Glen International and finishing 20th last weekend.

“These guys worked their butts off all week,” Smith said. “This car was destroyed, door tops down. They rebuilt it in one day. The guys back at the shop, phenomenal job. My road guys, they’ve stuck behind me for awhile. We’ve had a lot of opportunities to win.”

This was Smith’s seventh top five of the year and second in three races.

“I hate doing that in that last corner,” Smith said. “It’s been a long time, I wasn’t going to pass up that opportunity up. I’ve been wreck so many times on these road courses, I had to do what I had to do there.”

MORE: Xfinity points standings

MORE: Race results

HOW REGAN SMITH WON: Smith got close enough to Alex Tagliani in the final two turns to hit his rear bumper, sending him out of the race groove and opening the door to the checkered flag.

WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD RACE: Darrell Wallace rebounded from a spin early into the dirt to finish eighth … Tagliani finished second after leading a race-high 38 laps … Ben Rhodes got stuck in the dirt off Turn 2 on Lap 20 and bounced back to finish 10th, his second top 10 of his Xfinity career … Ty Dillon and Chris Buescher safely raced each other in the closing laps and finished third and fourth respectively

WHO HAD A BAD RACE:  Kenny Habul helped create three cautions, the last on a restart with seven laps to go which collected Boris Said and Tomy Drissi. Habul finished 28th … Dakoda Armstrong spun while running 17th on Lap 38, damaging his left rear in the process. He finished 23rd … Dylan Kwasniewski stalled his car on Lap 41 to bring out the caution and finish 34th. … During the Kwasniewski caution, Said stalled on pit road, losing many positions and Daniel Suarez suffered damage to his left front after hitting Eric McClure … Said would then be spun out with 28 to go, then again in the crash with seven to go, leading to a 13th-place finish … Ryan Reed was 11 laps from his first top-10 finish since winning the season opener at Daytona when he and Justin Marks made contact in Turn 2, spinning Reed into the dirt where got stuck. Reed finished 22nd.

NOTABLE: Regan Smith gained six points on leader Chris Buescher in the driver standings … Darrell Wallace Jr. (eighth) was the highest finishing rookie.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “He knows I’m not going to be there next week to retaliate and give him the payback.” – Alex Tagliani after losing to Regan Smith on a last turn bump-and-run.

UP NEXT: Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on Aug. 21 on NBCSN at 7:30 pm ET

Kyle Busch dominates to Truck win at Las Vegas

Getty Images
Leave a comment

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Kyle Busch extended his NASCAR Truck Series victory record to 57 in his hometown Friday night, leading 108 of 134 laps at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion swept both stages and finished 5.958 seconds ahead of Johnny Sauter. Busch has won seven straight races in the series, including all five he entered last season.

Austin Hill was third, followed by defending series champion Matt Crafton and Ben Rhodes. Grrant Enfinger, who opened the season with an overtime victory at Daytona, did not finish after an accident with 43 laps to go.

Christian Eckes was right behind Busch in the opening two stages, but he finished 23rd after an early final-stage wreck.

Results

Driver standings

Jimmie Johnson tops final Cup practice at Las Vegas

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Jimmie Johnson was the fastest driver in Friday’s second and final NASCAR Cup practice of the weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The seven-time Cup champion hasn’t won a race since 2017, but showed plenty of speed, pacing the 38 cars that took to the 1.5-mile track, clocking a best speed of 179.432 mph.

Johnson and his Chevrolet were followed by five Fords.

Clint Bowyer, who was second-fastest in the first practice earlier in the day, was once again second-fast in the final session at 179.271 mph.

Aric Almirola, who was fastest in the first practice, was third-fastest in the final session at 179.170 mph.

Rounding out the top-5 were Kevin Harvick (179.015 mph) and Matt DiBenedetto (178.814 mph).

Sixth through 10th were Ross Chastain (178.660 mph), who will be filling in for the injured Ryan Newman in Sunday’s Pennzoil 400, followed by Kyle Larson (178.424), Ryan Blaney (178.359), John Hunter Nemechek (178.259) and Alex Bowman (178.089).

Final Cup practice results

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Next goals for Daytona winner Denny Hamlin: double-digit wins, Cup crown

Getty Images
Leave a comment

There was a time when Denny Hamlin’s best memories of the Daytona 500 were to just go home relatively unscathed.

Consider this: In Hamlin’s first six appearances in the Great American Race, his highest finish was 17th.

But after a breakthrough 4th-place finish in 2012, he has become the best overall performer in the 500 among active drivers.

“I don’t know what it is, but I think I started studying more about superspeedway racing around that time because I had been so unsuccessful for a very long time,” Hamlin said Friday during a media session at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“We went a long time and I’ve won a lot of the Clashes and Duel races, but not many like Talladega – I think I have one win there – but it just seems like it’s that seven or eight years ago that the car came around and whatever techniques I use or I’ve adapted to this car have seemed to work.”

In the last seven editions of the 500, Hamlin has finished 2nd (2014), 4th (2015), 1st (2016), 17th (2017), 3rd (2018), 1st (2019) and 1st again this past Monday.

Do the math and that’s three wins – making him only the sixth driver in NASCAR history to win the 500 three or more times – and seven overall top-5 finishes in the last nine season openers.

Hamlin knew that getting his second 500 win in a row – both outcomes being the closest finishes in the race’s 62-year history – and third in the last five years was basically going to come down to a battle between him, Ryan Newman and Ryan Blaney.

With emphasis on Newman, that is, before he was involved in that horrific last lap crash on the front stretch heading toward the checkered flag.

“I pulled the block on (Newman) coming to the white (flag) and I stayed in front and I knew he was going to back up to (Blaney),” Hamlin said. “I was trying to back up myself, but once (Newman) was attached (to Blaney), I knew they were going to come with a run I could not stop.

“I just held my line because if I started going sideways, the next thing you know (Newman) starts moving sideways and (Blaney) is already hooked to him, so he’s probably going to push him sideways into me.

“I just wanted to hold a straight line to let them know hey, pass this way, and when I did I was able to back to (Blaney) and was able to unattach him from (Newman). When I slowed his momentum, that allowed me to really tuck in right behind him. I don’t know if he checked up to keep us attached but once we got attached, I knew we were going to have a run back on (Newman).

“I knew he was going to get there, I didn’t know what was going to happen when he did get there, but certainly it worked out in my favor. I thought I was going to get back around (Blaney) at the (finish) line if there was no crash, but I wasn’t sure I was going to get all the way back to (Newman). I knew those two were going to jostle and I was just hoping to be in the right place when it happened and I was.”

Not having any 500 wins of his own, Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch is envious of Hamlin’s three triumphs.

“Denny has really gotten way better ever since this car,” Busch said of Hamlin and how he’s adapted to the Gen 6 car in recent years. “He was always an aggressive plate racer, one that would make moves that you’re kind of, ‘Man, if he would just stay in line, I think this would turn out better.’

“He still does that today, but he’s making it work for himself, that not staying in line is better for Denny. I think since this car came though, he’s been a real good plate racer.

“He’s been fantastic at the game, he’s understood it, he’s made moves that I sometimes wouldn’t make that have worked, he’s able to pass a guy to get in line. … He’s very knowledgeable and skillful In making his moves and passes.”

Going forward from Daytona, Hamlin said his next goal is double-digit wins this season. If so, he’d become the first driver to earn 10 or more wins in a season since Jimmie Johnson did so in 2007 when the seven-time champ won 10 races.

“I’d be satisfied with that and then beyond that would be nice,” Hamlin said. “I think that the championship is an easy goal that anyone just throws out – win a championship, but that comes down to one race.

“If you can win a significant amount of races, it shows a bigger picture of your full year. If you make it to the Final Four, that’s a bigger picture of your entire year (Hamlin has reached the final four just twice since the format was introduced in 2014 — third that year and fourth last season). I think the championship – a successful year is making the Final Four. Anything after that is just whatever it is.

“Certainly we set lofty goals. I think everyone sets huge and lofty goals, but certainly we’re going to push ourselves to better what we did last year and it starts with Daytona and we’re able to repeat there so then let’s get a win now before we get to Texas to keep ourselves on pace or better from last year.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Johnny Sauter on pole for tonight’s Truck race in Las Vegas

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Johnny Sauter will start from the pole in tonight’s Strat 200 Gander RV and Outdoors Truck Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Sauter earned the eighth career pole of his Truck Series career – and first since 2018 – by topping the other 34 drivers that made qualifying attempts with a speed of 177.836 mph.

Sheldon Creed (177.643 mph) will start alongside Sauter on the front row for tonight’s race.

The rest of the top 10 qualifiers were Kyle Busch (177.282 mph), making his first Truck Series start of the season, followed by Christian Eckes (177.189 mph), Ty Majeski (177.189), Austin Hill (176.788 mph), Tyler Ankrum (176.275), Raphael Lessard (176.056), Grant Enfinger (176.010) and Brett Moffitt (175.890).

Tonight’s race starts shortly after 9 p.m. ET (FS1, Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Trucks qualifying results

Follow @JerryBonkowski