Saturday, December 20, 2014

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Regan Smith survives at Darlington Raceway

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DARLINGTON, South Carolina--Regan Smith moved in front on a caution nine laps from the end and survived a green-white-checker finish to win the Southern 500 on Saturday for his first NASCAR Sprint Cup victory.

Smith held off Carl Edwards for the final two laps at Darlington Raceway in a race that turned ugly late when Kyle Busch tangled with Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer to set up the overtime finish.

"I'm not supposed to win this race. I've never even had a top-five. I guess in this series, it just shows anyone can win,'' said Smith, whose previous best this season was a seventh at the Daytona 500.

After the race, Harvick stopped in front of Busch on pit road and attempted to punch or grab Busch through his window. Busch then slammed into Harvick's empty car, sending it crashing in the inside wall.

After Harvick got back into his car, the two stared each other down as they entered the garage. The standoff finally ended when Busch bumped Harvick several times to make space to drive off.

Brad Keselowski finished third, pole-sitter Kasey Kahne was fourth and Ryan Newman fifth.

Edwards appeared to be heading to his first Darlington victory with 10 laps remaining in what had been about 490 miles (788 kilometers) of relatively calm racing. Things changed when Jeff Burton brought out the 10th and final caution, setting up a restart with five laps left and many of NASCAR's best drivers not far from the lead.

Busch, Harvick and Bowyer wound up driving next to each other in too tight of a space and Bowyer was sent sprawling into the interior wall. As cars spun out behind, Busch veered down the track and sent Harvick spinning.

Smith bobbled slightly on the final lap, but regained control and took off for the victory. He won for the first time in 105 Sprint Cup starts.

"We've had some ups and we've had some downs, this is an up,'' said Smith.

Smith's win, though, will likely be overshadowed by the confrontation between Harvick and Busch, who have a history of antagonism. Harvick admittedly wrecked into Busch on purpose late in last season's finale at Homestead in retaliation for earlier contact.

"Just uncalled for. Just unacceptable racing,'' said Busch. "You know, it's in the last couple of laps but I gave him room off of two, I didn't get the room. Just real unfortunate. I hate we tore up a few good cars there.''

Edwards said all drivers have a passion for racing that can leave them frustrated at times.

"This is racing,'' said Edwards. "You're going to have stuff like that. I think all of us know that can happen and we should be prepared."

Before the end, the most frightening incident came when the nose of David Ragan's car peeled off the sheet metal on the left side of Brian Vicker's vehicle, leaving a long trail of debris. ClientIP: UserAgent: CCBot/2.0 ( Profile: TWCSAMLSP