Impressive Third Place Run For Smith

Regan Smith was a major player in the outcome of the 300 for the NASCAR XFINITY Series at Kentucky Speedway on Saturday night, mixing it up with the leader and pushing to an impressive third-place finish. Smith, driving the No. 7 TaxSlayer Bowl Chevrolet, had two great restarts in the final nine laps, advancing as high as second at one point, to pull off his eighth top-five and 20th top-10 finish of the season.

The second half of the 200-lap event on the 1.5-mile Kentucky oval took place in fits and starts. Seven of the race’s 10 caution periods and the lone red-flag stoppage came after the halfway point, including three in the final 20 laps. It was the final two that saw Smith make decisive moves on the restarts and put him into the top three.

On the first, with 17 laps remaining, Smith lined up fourth behind leader Ryan Blaney and pushed the leader for all he was worth. As the cars headed down toward Turn 1, Smith slipped to the middle groove and split Blaney and second-place Ty Dillon to gain second place. Blaney passed Smith back the following lap, leaving him third with seven to go. The laps were ticking down toward the checkered when another caution waved on lap 197, setting up a green-white-checkered restart and extending the race by a single lap.

The second restart went much the same as the first, with Smith pushing Blaney hard toward the lead. It didn’t go as well this time, however, as Smith couldn’t get between the leader and Dillon, and he ran the last two laps holding JRM teammate Chase Elliott at bay for third.

Smith fired off from third place after a stellar qualifying session, and ran in the top eight all night despite a car that started off loose and modulated between loose and tight as the runs went on. Savvy pit strategy from crew chief Jason Burdett and timely work on pit road kept Smith in the hunt all night as well.

The third-place run also shaved four points off the advantage of point leader Chris Buescher, who finished seventh. That puts Smith 47 points behind with six races left in the inaugural NASCAR XFINITY Series season.
Blaney won the race, followed by Dillon, Smith, Elliott and rookie Brandon Jones. JRM teammate Ben Rhodes finished 30th after retiring with crash damage.

Regan Smith, driver No. 7 TaxSlayer Bowl team
“We got back to where we belong tonight. The TaxSlayer Bowl Chevrolet was pretty good there at the end, and we were battling for the victory. That’s where this team and JRM belong, at the front of the pack and battling for wins and top-five finishes. The last two restarts were great, the car fired off well and we were pushing the 22 (eventual winner Ryan Blaney) on both of them. I just hate the fact that I couldn’t get those last two spots. We stayed ahead of the curve on pit strategy, Jason [crew chief Jason Burdett] and the team really did a good job in the pits and we came out with another top-five. We gained points on the leader, too, and that’s great. We are still in this title hunt. We ran well at Dover the last time we were there and I’m looking forward to doing it again next week.”

Regan Smith Race Report: 300

  Start 3rd
  Finish 3rd
  Laps Completed (Led) 201 of 201 (0)
  Points (Bonus) 41 (0)
  Standings (From Leader) 4th (-47)
  Condition (Status) Running