TALLADEGA, Ala. (AP) — Regan Smith thought he'd won at Talladega before, only to have a NASCAR ruling go against him.
So there was no rush to celebrate Saturday night as Smith waited for NASCAR to review videotape and scoring loops to determine the winner of the crash-filled Nationwide Series race. He thought he was out front when the final caution flew — after all, it was dark enough that he could clearly see the glaring yellow lights — but experience taught Smith to stay calm.
After a few anxious minutes the word came down: Smith was going to Victory Lane.
"I was having flashbacks sitting on pit road, I'm not going to lie, when they were making the decision," said Smith, who crossed the finish line first of the 2008 Sprint Cup race but wasn't awarded the win because NASCAR said he went below the yellow line to pass Tony Stewart.
"I was thinking 'Man, I hope we got it. I'm pretty sure we got it when the flag came out and I saw the lights come on.' I knew we were ahead. I don't know if it's vindication, but I definitely wanted to win and it certainly wipes that bad memory away."
The race was delayed three hours by rain and slowed by seven cautions, and as darkness closed in on Talladega Superspeedway, NASCAR cut the race distance by 10 laps. Then Joey Coulter brought out a caution one lap shy of the new scheduled finish and NASCAR decided it would make one attempt at a green-white-checkered finish.
At least 10 cars were jockeying for position in packs of two on the final lap when Brian Vickers was spun hard into the outside wall. Smith, Joey Logano and Kasey Kahne raced three-wide all the way to the finish line and Kahne actually crossed it first.
"As soon as they started wrecking, I saw the caution, I still raced to the line. I had a good enough run to get there and be first there, and I was kind of surprised the caution came out," Kahne said. "I knew I was third when the caution came out and I knew I was first at the line. I actually thought maybe Joey had won."
NASCAR needed several minutes to review video to see who won the race. The win went to Smith over Logano under caution with Kahne in third.