Smith holds off Larson for Nationwide win at Michigan
Brooklyn, MI (Sports Network) - Regan Smith extended his lead in the Nationwide Series point standings after winning Saturday's Alliance Truck Parts 250 at Michigan International Speedway.
With a threat of rain throughout the 250-mile race, Smith grabbed the lead with 14 laps to go when then leader Parker Kligerman was forced to pit for fuel. Smith had to hold off rookie Kyle Larson in the closing laps. He beat Larson to the finish line by just 0.33 seconds for his second win of the season and the third of his Nationwide career.
Smith started 20th after he struggled in qualifying earlier in the day.
"It seemed like once when we got the car in front, it really came to life," Smith said. "It was kind of surprising in qualifying. We thought we were going to be way better than that. We were scratching our head a little bit after that and weren't quite sure what happened. But I knew we had a good race car."
Smith dedicated his Michigan win to Jason Leffler, who was killed during a sprint car event this past Wednesday night at Bridgeport Speedway, a 5/8-mile dirt track in New Jersey. Smith is donating a portion of his race winnings to a trust fund that has been established for Leffler's 5-year-old son, Charlie Dean.
"We want to make sure that we remember he had a son, Charlie Dean, and as a racing community, we have to play a part in helping him out and helping him grow as a person as he gets older," Smith said. "We're certainly going to miss Jason."
The funeral service for Leffler will be held on Wednesday in Cornelius, N.C.
Smith now holds a comfortable 58-point lead over Sam Hornish Jr., who suffered engine failure late in the race and ended up finishing 32nd.
This year, Smith is driving the No. 7 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports, which is co-owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr. Smith won his first race in the series when he made his debut with the team in the season-finale at Homestead, Fla. last November. He also won at Talladega in May.
Larson finished in the runner-up spot for the second time this season. In March, he placed second to Kyle Busch at Bristol. Larson, who drives for Turner Scott Motorsports this season, said this race was an emotional one for his team. Leffler spent part of his Nationwide career with Steve Turner's racing organization.
"I definitely didn't think we had a second-place car in the beginning of the race," Larson said. "But we'll take a second-place finish. It was pretty emotional for our whole team. Everybody at Turner Scott Motorsports was really close to Jason Leffler. It would have been nice to get a win for all of them and Jason, but I know that win will come shortly."
Paul Menard finished third, followed by Busch and Trevor Bayne, who won last weekend's rain-delayed race at Iowa. Busch, who has won six Nationwide events this year, did not lead any laps at this 2-mile racetrack.
Brad Sweet, Chris Buescher, Elliott Sadler, Nelson Piquet Jr. and Brian Scott completed the top-10.
Earlier in the day, Austin Dillon won his record fourth consecutive pole in the series. He dominated the first half of the race by leading a total of 61 laps. But Dillon suffered a flat tire right after a restart on lap 69, which led to a 20th-place finish.
06/15 19:00:27 ET