Kasey Kahne celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Nationwide series auto race Friday at Daytona International Speedway. (John Raoux / Associated Press)
Daytona Beach, Florida — Kasey Kahne nipped Regan Smith at the Daytona International Speedway finish line Friday night for his first Nationwide Series victory since 2007.
Kahne weaved his way through traffic during a two-lap overtime sprint to the finish, but didn’t appear to be in the mix for a shot at the win as Smith pulled away from the pack. But as the field hurtled through the final turn, Kyle Larson jumped out of line and made it three-wide behind Smith.
Kahne moved into the top lane and, using a push from Ryan Sieg, charged alongside Smith and beat him to the line by .021 seconds.
“Everything I did tonight was wrong — I looked in my mirror and would be like ‘Go’ and then decide not to and it’d be the right move,” Kahne said. “I didn’t really do a whole lot right, but at the end, I got a big push from (Sieg) and was able to get by Regan there. Just had tons of momentum there coming off turn four and had a fast car.”
Smith couldn’t offer a better last-lap strategy then the one he used.
“If I go up any higher, we probably all wreck right there,” Smith said. “I don’t know how to do it any different. I’ll have to study the tape and see where I messed up. I had a pretty good sized gap, but at that point you can’t crack the throttle or drag the brake. I lost just enough momentum that it didn’t quite work out.”
It was the sixth win this season for JR Motorsports, and second consecutive following Kevin Harvick’s victory last week at Kentucky.
“It feels good to win. These guys have won five times already this year, so it’s nice to get one. It was a fun race.”
Smith, one of JR Motorsports’ two full-time drivers, wound up second in his return to Daytona following his victory in February’s season-opener. Despite the defeat, Smith reclaimed the series points lead from Elliott Sadler.
“It’s kind of bittersweet,” Smith said. “I’m disappointed for the team, I’m disappointed for my guys, and selfishly I’m disappointed. But, for JR Motorsports, I’m happy. A 1-2 finish is great. It’s kind of a weird mix of emotions right now.
“I’m happy for the company and frustrated for the 7 team.”
Sieg was a career-best third.
“It was a win for us,” said Sieg. “Hopefully it will bring some more sponsors. It would be nice to have a full-time sponsor, hopefully we turned some eyes.”
It was Kahne’s first Nationwide victory since a 2007 win at Bristol while driving for Ray Evernham.
Sprint Cup qualifying
David Gilliland has won the pole for Saturday’s Sprint Cup race at Daytona International Speedway after rain shortened qualifying.
Gilliland’s top speed during a hectic, cat-and-mouse qualifying session was 199.322 mph. The top 24 drivers Friday in the first knockout stage were supposed to advance to the next round, but rain prompted NASCAR to cancel the final two sessions.
Reed Sorenson qualified second, followed by Landon Cassill, Bobby Labonte and Jimmie Johnson.
IndyCar at Pocono
The future of IndyCar at Pocono Raceway is in jeopardy because of a dramatic attendance drop expected for Sunday’s race.
IndyCar returned to Pocono last year after a 24-year absence for the first race of a three-year contract. Track CEO and President Brandon Igdalsky said this week he planned to speak with IndyCar CEO Mark Miles and other series executives about possibly dumping the final year of the contract.
Igdalsky refused to divulge numbers, but said ticket sales “were kind of scary” compared with last year. While the track does not disclose attendance figures, about 30,000 to 35,000 fans were estimated at last year’s race.
Igdalsky said he brought the series back because track research showed fans wanted the racing and would support IndyCar. He will not guarantee IndyCar will race at Pocono in 2015.
Pocono Raceway has had two NASCAR weekends on the schedule for decades. He blamed the fans — not a glut of racing in the mountains — for the possibility of IndyCar leaving the track.
“The fans begged us to bring it back. Every study and report we did, they all said they’d come,” Igdalsky said. “But they’re not coming in the numbers we need them to come in. ... Where are they?”
Susie Wolff’s bid to make an impact as the first woman to take part in a Formula One grand prix weekend for 22 years ended prematurely during practice on Friday.
Wolff, driving a Williams, idled to a halt after only three timed laps in the opening practice for the British Grand Prix on Sunday.
“The engine has gone — terminal,” she was told by her race engineer.