BROOKLYN, Mich. — As he began driving his car in preparation for Saturday’s Nationwide Alliance Truck Parts 250, Regan Smith noticed that he wasn’t at ease in the No. 7 Chevrolet.
Smith’s crew chief, Greg Ives, decided to take the car off the track after the practice sessions and make changes after a handful of runs, then returned Smith and the car to the oval.
In his return, Smith gained lap time and confidence. And, as Ives said, “it’s all about confidence in the racecar.”
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Smith started 20th, ran in the top 10 for the bulk of the race, and made a breakthrough with 14 laps left in the 125-lap race. Smith took advantage of three restarts between the 65th and 102nd laps to gain track position before he took over the lead from Parker Kligerman, then outpaced Kyle Larson on the final lap to earn his second win of the season.
“Once we got the car out front, it really came to life,” said Smith, who drives for JR Motorsports, owned by Dale Earnhardt, Jr. “It kind of surprised me in qualifying. We thought we were going to be way better than that. We weren’t sure what happened but I knew we had a good race car and it was a situation where Greg made some really good adjustments and made some great pit calls to get us in front.”
Sam Hornish, Jr., ran in the top five for a span of 50 laps but pitted on the 81st lap when his car lost oil pressure. With smoke billowing from his No. 12 Ford, the Defiance native went to the garage and attributed the mechanical issues to debris from a previous wreck coming through the car.
“[The debris] hit the pulley for the oil pump, broke the pulley off and that basically allowed that front bearing to dump a bunch of oil out of the engine,” said Hornish, who finished 32nd in the 39-driver field. “We knew we had a good car that was capable of winning but it just wasn’t our day. I’m glad it wasn’t an engine problem.”
Austin Dillon set a Nationwide record Saturday morning when he won his fourth consecutive pole; Dillon’s qualifying lap speed of 191.882 miles per hour set a new Nationwide track record. Dillon led 61 of the first 70 laps but had to pit because of a left rear flat tire on 71st lap, falling to 14th, which allowed Joey Logano to move into the lead. Dillon finished 20th.
PETTYS RESPOND: Kyle Petty told reporters that reigning Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski takes a me-against-the-world approach, despite being one of NASCAR’s popular drivers. Petty was asked about Keselowski after the Michigan native sounded off to reporters Thursday at Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn, Mich. The Detroit Free Press reported the Michigan native accused Joe Gibbs Racing and Hendrick Motorsports of stealing employees and information from Ford Sprint Cup teams.
A day later at MIS, Keselowski, who drives the No. 2 Ford for Penske Racing, was asked again about his comments.
“I just commented on how there will always be limitations to our relationships, company to company, because of those transactions,” Keselowski said.
Petty pointed to Keselowski’s 2013 record: he’s ninth in the Sprint Cup standings and winless entering today’s Quicken Loans 400.
“If Brad was running a little bit better on the race track, he probably wouldn't be talking about it,” Petty said.
Kyle Petty’s father, Richard, shared a similar sentiment.
“He should be concentrating on what he should do to win another championship,” the seven-time NASCAR champion, known as “The King,” said. “You keep your mouth shut and you do your job."
LEFFLER MEMORIAL: A trust fund has been established for Charlie Dean Leffler, the son of Jason Leffler, an 11-year NASCAR driver who was killed Wednesday in a short-track sprint car accident in New Jersey. The Sporting News on Friday reported that Jason Leffler did not have a life insurance policy.
A memorial for Jason Leffler will be at 1 p.m. Wednesday at Grace Covenant Church in Cornelius, N.C. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Charlie Dean Leffler Discretionary Trust, c/o Sun Trust Bank, 232 Williamson Road, Mooresville, N.C., 28117.
PETTY PRESENTATION: The Pettys and Aric Almirola surprised Joel and Jarrett Correll of Dunkirk, Ohio, Saturday morning by designating them as honorary members of Almirola’s pit crew for the Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 Ford for today’s Quicken Loans 400.
Joel Correll serves in the Marines and Jarrett Correll, 15, has cystic fibrosis. Jarrett will spend a week at the Victory Junction Gang Camp, a year-round camp founded by Kyle and Pattie Petty in Randleman, N.C., for children with chronic illnesses.