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Kasey Kahne nips Smith at Daytona finish line

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 4, 2014 at 10:53 pm •  Published: July 4, 2014
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — From his perch atop Regan Smith's pit box, team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. had a clear view of the Daytona International Speedway finish line.

He thought he was about to watch Smith win as his driver pulled away from the pack on the final lap Friday night in the Nationwide Series race. Then Kasey Kahne came charging through the outside lane, pulled alongside Smith and nipped him at the finish line.

No worries for Earnhardt: Kahne also was in one of JR Motorsports' Chevrolets.

"I was just glad that it was one of our cars when I saw somebody flying by on the top," Earnhardt said. "When I got a glimpse of it, I was happy to see it was (Kahne.)

It was Kahne's first Nationwide victory since a 2007 win at Bristol while driving for Ray Evernham.

He hoped to translate it into another victory Saturday night in the Sprint Cup Series as Kahne looks for his first win of the season. Kahne is the only driver of the four Hendrick Motorsports drivers yet to win this season.

"This will carry. I haven't won in a while. To win in anything is good," Kahne said. "When I first came into this series in '02, I struggled to pick up stock cars. I'd go and race my sprint car and could still win in sprint car races and I'd come back feeling like I could win. ... I'd run 15th or 20th, but I still felt way better coming back into that race after running my sprint car. Any momentum is good momentum."

Kahne was 12th on a restart with three laps to go when Chase Elliott, another JR Motorsports driver, sputtered at the front of the field when the race went to green. It stacked up traffic behind Elliott and triggered a four-car crash that halted the restart.

Kahne maneuvered his way through the accident and found himself eighth when the race resumed for a two-lap overtime sprint to the finish. He weaved his way through traffic, but didn't appear to be in the mix for a shot at the win as Smith pulled away from the pack.

But as the field hurtled through the final turn, Kyle Larson jumped out of line and made it three-wide behind Smith.

Kahne moved into the top lane and, using a push from Ryan Sieg, charged alongside Smith and beat him to the line by .021 seconds.

"Everything I did tonight was wrong — I looked in my mirror and would be like 'Go' and then decide not to and it'd be the right move," Kahne said. "I didn't really do a whole lot right, but at the end, I got a big push from (Sieg) and was able to get by Regan there. Just had tons of momentum there coming off turn four and had a fast car."

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