Regan Smith overcome both rain and Sprint Cup regulars Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch to win the Hisense 200 Xfinity Series race at Dover International Speedway on Saturday.
The future might be a little foggy for NASCAR driver Regan Smith, but the present turned out to be just fine for him at Dover International Speedway on Saturday.
Smith flexed his muscles in his No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet by leading the final 80 laps while masterfully driving to the win in the Hisense 200 Xfinity Series race on Dover’s high-banked, one-mile oval.
It was Smith’s first career victory at the track known as the “Monster Mile” and his second win of the season. He was able to hold off Sprint Cup regulars Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch for his sixth victory in 197 Xfinity starts.
It was a huge triumph for Smith, a 32-year-old from Cato, N.Y., because he’s still not certain about his driving plans for 2016. He held off runner-up Hamlin by about five-car lengths at the checkered flag.
“It wasn’t a ‘Hail Mary’ by any means because we came to the front and just had a really good race car,” Smith said. “I’m still looking at things [driving-wise] for next year and wins are never a bad thing moving forward.”
The Hisense 200 took on a couple of different personalities.
Busch dominated early, leading 110 of the first 112 laps. However, a caution period that came after Cale Conley and Stanton Barrett were involved in a crash on the backstretch changed the picture.
Elliott Sadler took over the lead with a quick two-tire pit stop under the caution period and then rain began to fall, stopping the race and making it look like the driver might win the race with a great strategy call.
But after a 31-minute, 15-second red-flag stoppage, the track was dried and the drivers returned to finish the final 85 laps under dark skies.
The green flag waved with 82 laps remaining and Smith got by Sadler two laps later with a pass down the front straightaway. Though he was challenged a couple of times by Hamlin, Smith never trailed again.
“The restart was huge,” Smith said. “I knew that whoever got out front would have a great advantage. I didn’t know my car was that fast. I can’t say enough about this team.”
Hamlin said his final restart wasn’t very good and it hurt him down the stretch run.
“Our car was really good,” Hamlin said. “Being out in clean air [in the lead] was very important. I got a bad restart on that last restart. By the time we got to [Smith] I was really working my right front [tire] really hard. I thought I’d spend a few laps cooling the tire off, but I didn’t have enough time to catch up.”
Busch, who swept both Xfinity races at Dover last year, appeared to have the car to beat again.
“Track position is everything,” said Busch, who finished third. “We were opposite of Denny [on the last restart] and got loose and couldn’t pass anybody.”
Ryan Blaney finished fourth and Kyle Larson was fifth. Chris Buescher, who finished eighth, left Dover with a 24-point lead over Chase Elliott in the Xfinity Series point standings.
For Sadler, all he needed was a little more rain and he would have been the winner. He didn’t get it.
“I’ve never had much luck with the rain,” Sadler said. “I’ve always been on the wrong side of that going back to the 2009 Daytona 500. I knew we would be in trouble with two tires. We thought more rain might be coming.”
Instead, it turned out to be Smith who was coming – and fast.