Kasey Kahne edges Regan Smith in Nationwide at Daytona (VIDEO)

Leave a comment

Kasey Kahne took the Green-White-Checkered restart in seventh place but beat JR Motorsports teammate Regan Smith by .021 of a second to win tonight’s NASCAR Nationwide Series Subway Firecracker 250 at Daytona International Speedway.

With help from Ryan Sieg, Kahne charged on the final lap toward Smith and Kyle Larson, who both went to the low line in the tri-oval. Larson moved up and caused Kahne to do the same, but with Sieg still behind him, Kahne managed to ride the high line to victory in the final moments.

“Everything I did tonight was wrong, and then I’d look in the mirror and be like ‘Go’ and then decide not to – and it’d be the right move,” Kahne told ESPN. “I didn’t really do a whole lot right with the Hellmann’s Chevrolet, but at the end, I had a huge push from the 39 [Sieg] and it felt really good.

“The car had speed all night, I was just in the wrong spot all night. But I was able to get by Regan there…I just had tons of momentum off Turn 4 and a fast car.”

Smith, Sieg, Ryan Reed and Kyle Larson completed the Top 5 after the wild finish.

After a delay of roughly an hour and a half due to track drying from earlier rains, the race started with Trevor Bayne taking the lead on the opening lap from pole sitter Dakoda Armstrong.

But on Lap 8, Elliott Sadler pulled up to Bayne on the outside line and took his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch and Darrell Wallace Jr. with him.

The three JGR drivers held 1-2-3 for the remainder of the stint before pitting together under green on Lap 36. Following the end of the cycle, Busch found himself as the new leader over Sadler and Armstrong.

Unfortunately for Sadler, a loose wheel on his car sent him to the pits for a second time under green at Lap 44. After changing all four tires, Sadler was overtaken by the leaders despite Busch attempting to help him stay on the lead lap.

Larson took over the lead on Lap 47, while Busch dropped back to fifth. But things got hectic at Lap 52 – Smith was able to claim the lead while Larson was shuffled back, a caution came out for debris in Turn 2 (and gave Sadler the free pass to return to the lead lap), and Wallace sustained splitter damage when he got loose and spun out.

The leaders decided to pit again under yellow, which led to Smith winning the race out over Chase Elliott and Busch (all took fuel only) and retaining the lead for the Lap 58 restart.

JR Motorsports teammates Smith and Elliott stayed 1-2 up to Lap 70, when Busch went to the outside and challenged for the lead with help from Bayne and Armstrong behind him.

Then on Lap 79, Bayne and Armstrong lost contact with the lead pack and Busch promptly dropped to the lower reaches of the Top 10. Dillon settled in behind Smith and Elliott in third on the low line, but as the race stayed green, multiple leaders – including Smith, the man at the front – started to worry more about fuel mileage.

A caution came though with eight laps left as Brendan Gaughan appeared to come down into Wallace, who then spun him off of Turn 4. Gaughan then gave Dylan Kwasniewski a glancing blow before tagging the wall, but was able to stay up high and avoid the rest of the field.

The incident set up for a three-lap sprint to the finish, but Elliott ( who was on the inside of the front row) was unable to get up to speed as he had run out of gas.

The inside line stacked up behind him and multiple cars wound up spinning into the infield, including Sadler, Bayne and David Ragan – setting up the Green-White-Checkered finish.

NASCAR NATIONWIDE SERIES AT DAYTONA – Subway Firecracker 250
Unofficial results

1. Kasey Kahne, led 1 lap
2. Regan Smith, led 47 laps
3. Ryan Sieg
4. Ryan Reed
5. Kyle Larson, led 5 laps
6. Joey Logano
7. Darrell Wallace Jr.
8. Jeremy Clements
9. Trevor Bayne, led 7 laps
10. Mike Wallace
11. Ty Dillon
12. Chris Buescher
13. Derrike Cope
14. James Buescher
15. Johhny Sauter
16. Brian Scott, led 1 lap
17. Kyle Busch, led 7 laps
18. John Wes Townley
19. Dakoda Armstrong, led 1 lap
20. Chase Elliott, led 1 lap
21. Elliott Sadler, led 28 laps
22. Eric McClure
23. David Ragan
24. Dylan Kwasniewski
25. David Starr
26. Chad Boat, led 2 laps
ONE LAP DOWN
27. Joe Nemechek
28. Brendan Gaughan, led 3 laps
TWO LAPS DOWN
29. Ross Chastain
30. Landon Cassill
31. Scott Lagasse Jr.
THREE LAPS DOWN
32. Josh Wise
33. Jeffrey Earnhardt
FOUR LAPS DOWN
34. Carlos Contreras
FIVE LAPS DOWN
35. JJ Yeley, Accident
SIX LAPS DOWN
36. Tanner Berryhill

37. Joey Gase, Lap 92, Running
38. Mike Bliss, Lap 62, Rear End
39. Mike Harmon, Lap 58, Overheating
40. Robert Richardson Jr., Lap 13, Rear End

Alexander Rossi hopes to dodge oncoming traffic in second Baja 1000

Honda Photo
Honda Photo
Leave a comment

One of the great viral videos of last year’s offseason was the sight of Alexander Rossi’s Honda Ridgeline off-road vehicle and its near head-on collision with a passenger SUV coming in the wrong direction of last year’s Baja 1000.

The video of the incident overshadowed an outstanding debut for Rossi in the SCORE OFF Road Desert race.

Rossi (pictured above on the right along with fellow driver Jeff Proctor) told NBCSports.com that driving down the same roads still used by passenger traffic is one of the unique challenges of the Baja 1000.

“The most demanding form of racing is IndyCar racing,” Rossi told NBC Sports.com. “But the big thing for me in the Baja 1000 is mentally being able to understand the terrain that is coming at you at 120 miles an hour in the dust and pedestrians and other cars, people and cattle that come along with this race.”

Rossi is becoming a modern-day Parnelli Jones, A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti. He wants to race anything on wheels and win.

Since the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season concluded with the Sept. 22 Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey, Rossi competed in the Bathurst 1000 in Australia on Oct. 13. Earlier this year, Rossi drove for Acura Team Penske in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring.

This weekend, the winner of the 100th Indianapolis 500 in 2016 and a perennial contender for the NTT IndyCar Series championship will compete in the Baja 1000 for the second straight year.

Rossi will be driving for the Honda Ridgeline Racing team and is the sixth Indy 500 winner to compete in the Baja 1000.

Other Indy 500 winners who have raced in the SCORE Baja 1000 include Jones, the 1963 Indianapolis winner and a two-time Baja 1000 race winner (1971 72); fellow Honda IndyCar Series driver and Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, the Indy winner in 2014; Rick Mears, who won the Indianapolis 500 four times, 1985 Indy 500 champion Danny Sullivan and 2004 Indy winner Buddy Rice.

NTT IndyCar season champions who have raced in the Baja 1000 include Mears, Hunter-Reay, Sebastien Bourdais, Jimmy Vasser and Paul Tracy.

Rossi has a better understanding of what to expect in this year’s Baja 1000 after last year’s rookie experience.

How valuable was last years’ experience?

“It’s hugely valuable,” Rossi said. “The course changes each year. There will be some elements that are the same, but it’s a new route from start to finish this year. That is why we go down a week early. We do pre-running in a similar type of vehicle and take course notes and analyze each individual section of the course, find the danger areas and what you need to do come race day.

“Ultimately, the biggest thing is having the knowledge of how to prepare for the race and what to expect once you roll off the starting line. That is something I will have going for me this year that I didn’t have last year.”

As an off-road rookie, Rossi acclimated to the demands of desert racing as the Jeff Proctor-led Honda Off-Road Racing Team finished second in Class 7. It was the fourth consecutive time the team finished first or second in the Ridgeline Baja Race Truck at the Baja 1000.

“I don’t know that I can pinpoint any highlights other than just the whole experience,” Rossi said of last years’ experience. “The whole week and a half I had down there in 2018 was phenomenal. The team made me feel part of the family from Day One. I just love driving a desert truck through Baja California. It’s an experience unlike any other.

“The entire event was a highlight more than one specific moment.”

Getty Images

Driving an off-road Honda Ridgeline through the desert of Baja California in Mexico is vastly different than Rossi’s regular ride in the No. 27 NAPA Honda in the NTT IndyCar Series. But Rossi believes there are many similarities, also.

“It’s very different, for obvious reasons, but ultimately, a race car is a race car,” Rossi said. “It has four wheels, and you are trying to get it from Point A to Point B quicker than other people. The general underlying techniques of getting a car through the corner efficiently is all the same; it’s just a different style.

“Everyone here is very talented at what they do and very good so in order to win this race, you have to be at the top of your game.”

The Baja 1000, like most forms of off-road racing, is more against the clock than a wheel-to-wheel competition such as IndyCar. Rossi believes it is a different form of endurance racing, similar to IMSA in many ways.

“You have to compare it like an endurance race,” Rossi said. “It’s a race where the first part of it, you are trying to get through and not take chances and stay in touch with the people you are trying to stay in touch with.

“When you get down to the final 20 to 30 percent, that is when you try to either close the lead of extend the lead of whatever position you are in. That is similar to the Rolex 24 at Daytona. It comes down to the last three or four hours, and we take a mentality closer to that.

“The only difference is if you get it wrong at Daytona, you spin in the grass. Here, it can be more dramatic than that.”

As an off-road rookie in 2018, Rossi acclimated to the demands of desert racing as the Jeff Proctor-led Honda Off-Road Racing Team finished second in Class 7. It was the fourth consecutive time the team finished first or second in the Ridgeline Baja Race Truck at the Baja 1000.

“The Honda off-road guys and my co-driver/navigator Evan Weller make it so easy for me to just jump right in and go to work,” Rossi said. “I can’t wait to share the seat with Jeff [Proctor] and Pat [Dailey] once again, and hopefully, bring home a win.”

The Honda Off-Road Racing Team has had an outstanding 2019 season, including class wins for the Baja Ridgeline Race Truck at the Parker 425, the Mint 400 and the Baja 500; where the team successfully debuted the second-generation “TSCO” chassis; and a second-place Class 7 finish at the Vegas-to-Reno event.

Proctor won his class in the Baja 1000 in both 2015 and 2016 with the Ridgeline, finished second in class in 2017 and 2018; and won the companion SCORE Baja 500 race both in 2016, 2018 and again earlier this year. The Ridgeline competes in Class 7, for unlimited six-cylinder production-appearing trucks and SUVs.

“We are stoked to have Alexander back racing with us in Mexico for his sophomore attempt at this iconic off-road race,” Proctor said. “This year’s 52nd annual Baja 1000 course covers ALL of the toughest terrain and areas in Baja Norte….as always, it will be tough.

“Alex is one of the brightest motorsports minds I’ve worked with, and he is a great asset to our team.”

The Baja 1000 begins Friday and runs through the weekend along the Baja Peninsula of Mexico.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500