Smith Takes Points Lead With Win At Talladega

Regan Smith drove the No. 7 Chevrolet to JRM’s first victory of the season in dramatic fashion in Saturday’s Aaron’s 312 at Talladega Superspeedway. The effort capped an impressive performance by both team cars, with Kasey Kahne and the No. 5 Great Clips Chevrolet finishing third. It was Kahne who pushed Smith into position in turn four of the last lap to make a daring sweep across the track that resulted in JRM’s 11th overall victory.

A three-hour rain delay left Smith anxious to get racing. But after the team settled in, Smith found himself in 18th and experiencing minor handling difficulties caused by the car’s splitter hitting the track. Crew chief Greg Ives made calls to alleviate the condition over the course of the next three pits stops and Smith steadily climbed his way inside the top 10. Smith eventually partnered with Sam Hornish Jr. in the tandem draft and found his first taste of the lead on lap 63. The front runners continued shuffling the lead, with Smith keeping point for five laps.

Shortly after the 100 lap mark, and with daylight fading, NASCAR officials announced the race would be shortened by seven laps. Smith soon found Kahne and the duo paired up in the tandem draft. Following a two-car incident on lap 106 that slowed the pace and set the field for a green-white-checkered finish, the Smith-Kahne pairing was poised for a remarkable charge to the front. Smith took the white flag in seventh, and with a push from Kahne coming off turn four, the TaxSlayer Chevrolet’s momentum carried it high and wide to the outside wall. Smith hugged the wall coming to the finish line and when Joey Logano moved high to block the charging No. 7, Smith made a bold move to the bottom of the track. The brazen action took Smith across three lanes of traffic, clearing the nose of the No. 99 by mere inches. It was then a three-car drag race to the finish with Smith, Kahne and Logano, until a massive seven car pile-up behind the leaders froze the field and gave Smith his second-career NNS victory. The win also gives Smith and JRM the driver points lead for the first time in the organization’s history.

Regan Smith, driver No. 7 team

“I’m just so happy for everyone at JR Motorsports, and in particular, our friends at TaxSlayer. They have been a partner of this company for a long time, long before I was here. And this is their first win, so we’re happy and proud for them.
“For us, the race was about managing the car so we had something to battle with at the end. We had a fast car, and depending on who you were working with it would be a little faster or a little slower. Fortunately one of those cars we worked well with was our teammate Kasey in the 5 car. We were able to find each other and we went forward. No matter the circumstances – if it was me pushing Kasey or the other way around – we were quick together.

“Quite honestly, when we went into turn three on the last lap in fifth, I thought that was where we were going to end up. Those two tandem packs in front of us got squirrely and that gave us a big push on the outside lane. I didn’t want to go to the bottom, but when the 22 threw that block, I saw a lane open to the bottom and I took a chance. It all worked out better than I imagined. As a team we’re thrilled with first and third.

Greg Ives, crew chief No. 7 team

“This is a great feeling. I try to stay calm throughout the race whether we’re 1st or 31st. And now the excitement is here. It’s definitely a dream come true for me. I appreciate everyone’s hard work at the shop. We have a lot of talented people in different areas at JRM and they have all stepped up to the plate. Getting this opportunity is pretty awesome.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr., co-owner JR Motorsports

“It’s a great deal for TaxSlayer. I’m just extremely happy for them. We’ve been working real hard as a race team to try and get to victory lane and give TaxSlayer the success they deserve. I’m happy for Regan and the whole group. They’ve been working hard, and put in some late nights, trying to get faster and find speed to be as good as they can be. You can really see the effort from Greg and everyone in the shop. They know they have a great opportunity to do something special this year. This is just a result of all that hard work.”

Kasey Kahne, driver No. 5 Great Clips Chevrolet

“My spotter after the race said, ‘I think we won, I think we won!’ The whole time I’m thinking to myself, ‘no way.’ I knew I was third when the caution came out. I knew I was first at the line. It was a great finish for JR Motorsports and Regan, I’m really glad to have been a part of it.”

Regan Smith Race Report:
Aaron's 312

  Start 20th
  Finish 1st
  Laps Completed (Led) 110 of 110 (7)
  Points (Bonus) 47 (4)
  Standings (From Leader) 1st (+27)
  Condition (Status) Running