Risk vs. reward: Regan Smith plays it safe, finishes second in Nationwide race at Daytona

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Regan Smith is no stranger to last lap wrecks, but in Friday’s Subway Firecracker 250, Smith made the choice to not risk wrecking and instead settled for a second-place finish.

In hindsight, it likely was the right move.

Had Smith, who led the most laps in the race (47 of 103), washed up the track at Daytona International Speedway, it likely would have created a huge wreck.

And his second-place finish would likely have been a lot further down the grid.

So, not only did Smith – who won the season-opening NNS race at Daytona in February – play it safe, he also regained the Nationwide Series points lead.

“I watched the replay and I blocked the 42’s (Kyle Larson) move and think if I’d gone up any higher, we’d probably all wreck there,” Smith told ESPN. “I had pretty good sized gap but at that point … I lost just enough momentum that it didn’t quite work out.”

But there was a silver lining for being, as Ricky Bobby from Talladega Nights would say, the first loser.

“It was a teammate over there (in victory lane), so that’s pretty cool that Kasey got the win,” Smith said of JR Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne, who rallied from sixth place to win on the final lap of the green-white-checker finish.

“(Kahne) pushed me to the win last year (April 2013 NNS race) at Talladega, so it’s good to see him get one and JR Motorsports got a 1-2,” Smith said.

While he’s now back atop the NNS standings with a 12-point edge over former points leader Elliott Sadler, who finished 21st in Saturday’s race, Smith was a bit down but realized what he did in the charge to the checkered flag was a means to an end.

“I’m disappointed,” Smith said, “but part of getting out of here is just getting out of here and not having anything stupid happen. Not too bad.”

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IndyCar Grand Prix of Alabama final practice report

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Will Power posted the fastest lap in the third practice session for the Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala. with a speed of 122.953 mph.

Rookie Robert Wickens (122.552 mph) was second fast, foretelling a continuation of his incredible rookie season.

Scott Dixon (122.237), Ryan Hunter-Reay (122.231) and Alexander Rossi (122.106) rounded out the top five.

The practice was interrupted several times for incidents. 

Ed Jones spun off track in turn five after locking up his brakes with 30 minutes remaining in practice three. He was able to drive back to the pits under his own power.

With 20 minutes still on the clock, Jordan King took a trip into the fence after posting a fastest lap of 121.753 mph. He sustained substantial left side damage to his car and came back to the pits on the hook.

“I’m annoyed really,” King said afterward on the live stream at IndyCar.com. “I slightly locked the inside front, then just stayed off onto the grass and that was it. But I wasn’t really even pushing that hard.”

With two minutes remaining, Charlie Kimball lost power and pulled off the track, bringing an end to the practice session.

Dixon also had an off-road excursion.