NASCAR veteran Kasey Kahne came out of nowhere to maneuver through a hectic finish and win the Subway Firecracker 250 at Daytona International Speedway on Friday night.
Kahne made a nice move to emerge from eighth place through a tight pack on a re-start to lead only one lap — but the only lap that mattered in the Nationwide Series event.
Regan Smith had held the lead through two caution flags and a couple accidents but wound up second behind Kahne, a J.R. Motorsports teammate, by 0.021 seconds.
On Lap 99, a wreck involving four cars created a two-lap sprint to the checkered flag.
“Everything I did tonight was wrong,” Kahne said. “But I was able to get by Regan then. I got tons of momentum coming off [Turn] 4. Overall it was a great night.
“It’s nice to get one. It was a fun race. I just could not get up there, and once I did we were fast enough.”
Smith took a 12-point lead in the Nationwide Series points race but wanted the trophy.
“It felt pretty good [on the re-start],” Smith said. “Then all of a sudden, it felt pretty bad. It was kind of bittersweet.”
Brendan Gaughan and Darrell Wallace Jr. made contact with seven laps left to bring out only the second yellow of the night. Gaughan spun out but missed collecting Wallace and amazingly avoided starting a multi-car crash.
The start of the race was delayed about an hour and 40 minutes by rain.
Trevor Bayne, surprise winner of the 2011 Daytona 500, led the first seven laps and Elliott Sadler took over from there until pitting on Lap 37.
The scrambling in and out of the pits on the first of two projected stops for the field left veteran Kyle Busch in the lead with 60 laps remaining.
Sadler fell back after needing to return to the pits because of a loose wheel, and his crew changed all four tires.
Kyle Larson, who has two Nationwide wins, seized the lead from Busch as the event reached the halfway mark.
At that point, no caution flags had appeared. But that all changed on Lap 52 when debris was spotted on Turn 2.
Then Wallace Jr. lost control and spun to the bottom of the track, fire and sparks flashing from under his Toyota. Wallace, who usually competes on the truck series, had been running in the top 10 most of the night.
Smith was out front on the re-start after the caution, with 43 laps to go. Chase Elliott — son of former NASCAR star Bill Elliott — was on Smith’s bumper and Busch was third.
Smith and Busch jockeyed for the lead, the two drivers setting up a shootout with 20 laps remaining. But Busch faded, with Elliott and Ty Dillon trying to run down Smith.
Dakoda Armstrong, who was the fastest qualifying rookie, won his first pole in 23 Nationwide Series races. He finished 19th.
A victory by Armstrong, 22, would have been storybook stuff. He drives for Richard Petty Motorsports, sporting The King’s old No. 43 on his Ford.
Petty, the sport’s all-time wins leader, was celebrating the 30th anniversary of his 200th victory accomplished on July 4 at Daytona International Speedway.
Qualifying was determined by speeds from a rain-shortened session.
A sudden rain shower caught NASCAR officials off guard, the slippery speedway precipitating a seven-car accident during qualifying before the race.
Mike Bliss lost control of his Toyota coming out of Turn 2, leading to a chain-reaction of crashes involving Robert Richardson Jr., Scott Lagasse Jr., Ross Chastain, Eric McClure, Benny Gordon and Joe Nemechek.
NASCAR canceled the final two qualifying sessions.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun