Red, white and blue gave way to green-white-checkered Friday night, as Daytona International Speedway celebrated the Fourth of July with Kasey Kahne winning a stirring shootout in the Subway Firecracker 250 Powered By Coca-Cola.
Kahne, driving the JR Motorsports No. 5 Hellman’s Chevrolet owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr., nipped teammate Regan Smith’s No. 7 Goody’s Chevrolet by 0.021 seconds at the finish of the NASCAR Nationwide Series event. That was the third-closest NNS finish at Daytona and the eighth-closest in series history. Smith’s consolation: he took over the series points lead.
Rookie Ryan Sieg finished third in the No. 39 Pull-A-Part Used Auto Parts Chevrolet followed by another rookie, Ryan Reed, in the No. 16 ADA Drive to Stop Diabetes Ford. Finishing fifth was Kyle Larson in the No. 42 Target Ticket Chevrolet.
The green-white-checkered finish was set up by a frontstretch incident involving four cars that chewed up Laps 99-101 under caution. The two-lap “overtime” sprint on the 2.5-mile tri-oval was the expected three-wide, nose-to-tail frenzy, with Kahne getting some late help from fellow Chevy driver Sieg.
“At the end we got a push from the 39 car and we had tons of momentum coming off Turn 4,” Kahne said. “We just had a fast car … everywhere I went [on the last lap] I just kept gaining speed.”
The race started after an approximate one-hour, 10-minute delay due to rain, with pole-sitter Dakoda Armstrong leading the 40-car field to the green flag under the lights. Armstrong, a series rookie, had put the No. 43 Fresh from Florida Ford on the pole earlier Friday with a lap of 192.123 mph, in a qualifying session that was ended prematurely by the late afternoon’s inclement weather.
Elliott Sadler, who started sixth in the No. 11 SportClips Toyota, dominated the first half of the event, leading 28 of 50 laps.
Friday night’s race served as the qualifier in the Nationwide Series’ “Dash 4 Cash” bonus program. The top-four finishers in the field who earned series championship points – Smith, Sieg, Reed and eighth-place finisher Jeremy Clements (Allsouthelectric.com/BRT Extrusions Chevrolet) – will carry the “Dash 4 Cash” designation in the first race of the bonus program at New Hampshire Motor Speedway next week. The “Dash 4 Cash” rewards the highest-finishing eligible driver in four designated races (New Hampshire on July 12, Chicagoland Speedway on July 19, Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26 and Iowa Speedway on Aug. 2) with a $100,000 bonus above and beyond the race purse. Fans can also participate via a sweepstakes that culminates with one lucky fan winning $100,000.
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Tickets to Saturday’s Coke Zero 400 Powered By Coca-Cola NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race are available by calling 1-800-PITSHOP or online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com.Fans can follow the latest NASCAR news on Twitter, using the hashtags #NASCAR and #COKEZERO400. Fans can also stay connected with Daytona International Speedway on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest for the latest news throughout the 2014 season. Fans can also follow the latest on DAYTONA Rising, the $400 million frontstretch renovation at the “World Center of Racing” by using #DAYTONARising on Twitter or visiting www.daytonarising.com.