Regan Smith was declared the winner of a crash-filled Aaron’s 312 Nationwide race at Talladega Superspeedway.
Kasey Kahne appeared to hold off Smith and Joey Logano, but a review by NASCAR of when a caution was thrown on the last lap gave Smith the victory and Logano second place.
Several cars behind the leaders were caught up in a crash, and with darkness falling, NASCAR had warned the field that would be the only attempt at a green-white-checkered finish.
“I was really surprised they threw that caution. Some many times they wouldn’t in that situation,” Kahne said. “NASCAR always switches it up. But I saw the caution before I got to the end.”
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Smith’s explanation: “Coming down the backstretch I was thinking fifth or sixth. Then a whole bunch of cars got jammed up behind us. I made a move and it worked out for us.”
A wreck by Joey Coulter with seven laps to go caused the green-white-checkered restart.
The race was shortened by 10 laps to 107, due to darkening conditions and the absence of lights at Talladega.
With about 24 laps to go and sprinkles starting to fall, there was a sense this race could be called quickly. Sam Hornish, Jr. tried to thread through a bunch of cars and tapped Johanna Long. Their collision ended up collecting 12 cars in this wreck, at least nine seriously damaged along the bottom of the track.
The race suffered another major crash just past the midway point, involving pole winner Travis Pastrana and Reed Sorenson. The problem started with Brian Scott following Sorenson closely along the wall. Sorenson turned toward the wall, then came back down, catching up Pastrana.
Both drivers took heavy damage but walked away once their cars ended up in the mud at the bottom of the track. Pastrana, a former extreme sports athlete, won his first pole at the Nationwide level Friday.
Pastrana expressed great regret after the crash because he was confident Roush Fenway Racing put him in this race’s fastest car, and he didn’t demonstrate the patience his bosses had instructed.
“No. 43 got loose, I tried to check up and then everything happened fast,” said Pastrana, who ended up crashing head-on to the wall, but wasn’t hurt. “I’ve got to swallow my pride and not be so dumb next time.”
With a chance for this race to go the last 35 laps under green flag, Blake Koch turned slightly to tap the wall. He did a good job of avoiding major damage, attempting to drive on, but he left behind enough debris to bring out a yellow flag.
That freed the leaders for a quick gas-up, just to make sure they had enough fuel to finish with 29 laps to go.
The race was delayed three hours by the constant rain that fell throughout Friday night and into the early afternoon. Finally at about 6 p.m., the blowers managed to dry the 2.66-mile tri-oval to set up the race start.
Danica Patrick, who runs a handful of Nationwide races now that she is full-time on the Sprint Cup circuit, was actually the first driver to get knocked out of Saturday’s race. Patrick got into the wall in turn 3 just 15 laps into the race, ending her day.