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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Top Fuel driver Austin Prock earns 2019 NHRA top rookie honors

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Having just completed a promising first year in NHRA Top Fuel competition, Austin Prock is on the road to even greater drag racing success in his career.

That’s why it’s not surprising that Prock was named the winner of the 2019 Auto Club Road to the Future Award during Monday night’s annual NHRA Awards dinner at the Ray Dolby Theater in Hollywood, California.

The Road to the Future Award is NHRA’s version of Rookie of the Year, and Prock was among the brightest young stars on the circuit this past season, including winning his first national event at the Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways in suburban Seattle, the 16th race on the 24-race schedule.

What made that first win all the more sweeter is it came at the same event that his boss, legendary 16-time Funny Car champion John Force, captured his milestone 150th career win.

One month ago, Prock set a personal best run of 3.688 seconds at 334.40 mph over veteran driver Doug Kalitta in the first round of eliminations at the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals three weeks ago in Ennis, Texas (suburban Dallas).

“I am proud of the season this Montana Brand / Rocky Mountain Twist team put together,” Prock said in a media release. “My guys worked their asses off all season long to give me the opportunity to win the Auto Club Road the Future Award. I couldn’t have done it without them.

“I would have never been here without John Force and Robert Hight (president of John Force Racing). They gave me the opportunity to fulfill my dream and I owe the world to them. I hope I made them proud.”

Prock became only the 10th rookie in the history of the NHRA pro ranks to both win a race in their first season and also go on to win the Road to the Future award. He also was the 13th rookie in the sport’s history to qualify for the Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s six race playoffs.

Prock becomes the sixth John Force Racing driver to earn the Road to the Future Award, joining Tony Pedregon (1996), Hight (2005), Ashley Force-Hood (2007), Mike Neff (2008), Courtney Force (2012) and Brittany Force (2013).

Austin Prock is the son of veteran crew chief Jimmy Prock, who tuned Hight to his third career NHRA Funny Car championship this past Sunday.

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