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

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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

NHRA: Antron Brown takes major step toward team ownership

NHRA
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There will come a day that when three-time NHRA Top Fuel champion Antron Brown wants to talk to his boss, he’ll need to look no further than in the mirror.

The New Jersey native announced Tuesday that he has begun to lay the groundwork to own his Top Fuel team, eventually branching out from Don Schumacher Racing.

“It’s definitely exciting, but at the same time, it’s also nerve-wracking because the buck stops here right now,” Brown told NBC Sports. “Now the coolest part is you get to help and drive and motivate and push the team forward, to make decisions and leave a legacy behind for my family.”

Brown will continue racing for DSR this season while beginning the transition to eventual sole ownership of the new AB Motorsports in the future. Even when he officially leaves the DSR camp as a hired driver, Brown and his new team will retain a technical partnership with the Schumacher organization.

Moving toward team ownership is just a natural evolution for Brown, who previously ran his own Pro Stock Motorcycle team from 1998 until joining DSR in 2002. It’s also a move that potentially may lead other current drivers to start thinking about their own futures.

It’s no secret that many of the biggest names in drag racing – both drivers and owners – are getting up in years. John Force will soon turn 72, while Schumacher is 75. They’re among several others in the sport who are making contingency plans for their teams to continue to operate once they’re gone – and Brown wants to do his part to help the sport grow and flourish.

“When you’re able to have ownership, you’re looking at the talent coming up,” Brown said. “You’re able to reach down and see and give other people opportunities that you had. When I came to race for Don Schumacher at DSR, he’s given all these people at his place this opportunity to drive.

“But what happens when the Don Schumachers, the John Forces, the Connie Kalittas go? You lose all the owners of our series, so who’s next in line to take over that lineage or carry that torch? It’s a necessary means for the future for the upcoming people.

Antron Brown’s plans to become a team owner were embraced by his current team owner, Don Schumacher. (Getty Images)

“I’ve been in this sport for over 20 years. This is the next evolution of my chapter, the next page of my book. What am I going to do when I decide to hang the helmet up one day? I want to be there to bring that new crop of drivers and talent up and help mold them to be the best version of themselves to carry the sport forward and to share with them what was shared with me over all my years in the sport, from Kenny Bernstein, John Force, Big Daddy Don Garlits, Mark Oswald and Don “Snake” Prudhomme, all the people I looked up to.”

While Brown will start as a single-car team once he transitions to ownership, he hopes to eventually build AB Motorsports into at least a two-car operation, with his Top Fuel dragster and a Funny Car.

* * * * * * * * * * *

The path to eventual ownership began nearly a year ago when Brown and Schumacher discussed the future.

“Me and Don had a heart-to-heart talk,” Brown said. “When I told him what I wanted to do, Don said, ‘Antron, I know this is what you want to do. I’ll support you in this.’

“That’s a cool experience when you have a gentleman that has done everything in this sport, from over 350 national event wins, 17 world championships – and I’ve done three with him – and is in every motorsports hall of fame there is.

“What is he going to do next? He’s making the sport better by pushing people like myself to do what I’m doing now. No matter how long it takes, I know I have him on my backside, pushing me to get to that point.”

Like father, like son: Antron Brown and son Anson, who is following in his father’s drag racing footsteps. Photo: Antron Brown’s official Facebook page.

His family’s future also figured into Brown’s decision. His oldest son, Anson, soon turns 16 years old and is heavily involved in NHRA’s Jr. Dragster program, as are Brown’s other children. It’s likely his son some day will follow in his father’s footsteps.

But don’t think that the elder Brown, who turns 44 in March, is ready to hang up his firesuit just yet.

“I’ll stop driving when I feel I’m not capable to drive no more and I’m not having fun no more,” he said. “That’s nowhere in the near future. I know I’m going to drive for at least another 15 years.”

Heading into this season, Brown will retain current sponsorship from Mac Tools and Toyota, as well as associate sponsorship from Hangsterfer’s on his 11,000-horsepower dragster. Global Electronic Technology also has signed on as a new associate sponsor in a multiyear deal.

“It’s no secret this has been a goal of Antron’s for a while now, and I’m happy to be able to provide the tools and resources needed for him to be able to successfully branch out on his own,” Schumacher said in a team media release. “It’s important for me to see my team members grow.”

* * * * * * * * * * *

Brown burst upon the NHRA scene atop a Pro Stock Motorcycle in 1998, earning 16 wins over the next 10 seasons. He joined DSR in 2002 and made the switch to Top Fuel in 2008.

Since then, Brown – who now resides in suburban Indianapolis – has gone on to become one of the winningest drivers in Top Fuel history with 50 national event victories, as well as three championships between 2012 and 2015.

That performance recently earned him AutoWeek magazine’s Top Fuel Driver of the Decade.

Brown also announced Tuesday he is reuniting with former crew chief Brian Corradi, who returns to the team after spending the last two seasons as co-crew chief for 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force. Corradi will share crew chief duties for Brown with NHRA veteran Mark Oswald.

* * * * * * * * * * *

When he won his first title in 2012, Brown became the first African-American world champion in Top Fuel history. He hopes his move to ownership will continue to grow NHRA’s already significant focus on opportunities for minorities and females in the sport.

“I think it’s important across all spectrums, period,” Brown said. “I think a lot of fans see me, and they can relate to me because I am them. I came from a good, hard-working family in Chesterfield, New Jersey, which is right next door to Trenton.

“Everybody in my family from my great uncles to my grandpop made their own way, had their own businesses, from swimming pool to paving to septic tank businesses.

“One thing my grandpop said to me is the world is wide open. He said, ‘Son, you can have anything you want in this world, as long as you put the effort and put the work towards it.’ If people can resonate with my story from where I came from and where I’m heading, I hope it gives them this energy, this ray of hope that ‘if Antron Brown can do this, so can I.’

“That’s the only way for motorsports to grow. It’s for the young ones to get interested in it and I want them to know the opportunity is there. All they have to do is take it.”

* * * * * * * * * * *

Brown will be among more than 30 Top Fuel and Funny Car drivers who will take part in this weekend’s annual preseason “spring training” test at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, in preparation for the season-opening Lucas Oil Winternationals Feb. 6-9 in Pomona, California.

Follow @JerryBonkowski