Category archive: Regan Smith

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Before NASCAR kicks off 2013 with the Daytona 500, here are a few interesting statistics that might surprise you:

Bad news for bad Brad: If Brad Keselowski wins the Daytona 500 on Sunday, he'll be the first defending Cup champion in 13 years to accomplish the feat. The last man to do it was Dale Jarrett in 2000, three months after winning the 1999 title.

Bad news for popular Danica: It's also been over a decade since the Daytona 500 pole winner went on to win the race. That also was Jarrett in 2000. Does DJ know something everyone else doesn't?

Menard is No. 1: Yes he is, as far as laps completed. Paul Menard was winless last season and finished 16th in the standings with only one top-5, but he completed more laps than any other driver -- 10,406, or 13,676.386 miles.

Obviously, Menard was on the track a lot. He had only one DNF. No wonder my eyes hurt after seeing that neon yellow Chevy lap after lap.

JJ led almost everything in 2012: Except the one category that counted the most: Winning the championship. But Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 Chevy team should feel good about their 2013 chances when they look at the stat book.

Five-Time was No. 1 in laps led (1,744), times led (78), races led (26), top-5s (18), top-10s (24) and driver rating (109.5). He also tied for the top spot in victories (5) and poles (4).

So how in the world did Johnson not win the title? He had six DNFs, the most of any driver in the top 20 in the standings.

Expect a close finish Sunday: Restrictor-plate races usually end one of two ways -- a side-by-side finish for the victory or a big wreck that brings out a caution.

Last year's Daytona 500 had the closest finish of the season when Matt Kenseth edged Dale Earnhardt Jr. by .21 of a second. The Talladega spring race was won by Keselowski by .304 of a second over Kyle Busch.

The other two plate races ended under caution because of last-lap crashes.

All that could change this year with the introduction of the "Gen 6" to the series, but expect some craziness at the end to continue.

By the way, 17 of 36 races last year ended with a margin of victory that was less than a second. Nine of those were less than half a second.

The low man on the points stand: That would be Landon Cassill in 2012, a category no one wants to lead in 2013, but someone will. Cassill had the fewest points of 26 drivers who started all 36 Cup events.

He also had fewer points than five drivers who didn't start all 36 events -- Earnhardt, Mark Martin, Regan Smith, Travis Kvapil and Kurt Busch.

Start-and-park perfection: The trophy went to Scott Riggs in 2012. Riggs started 20 events last season. How many did he finish? Zero. He completed 8.2 percent of the laps and made $1.5 million. Nice work if you can get it.

The S&Pers will make a little less this season since NASCAR adjusted the purse money to pay less for the bottom feeders, but it's still good money for running a few laps.

After 12 full seasons as a Sprint Cup driver, Elliott Sadler made the unusual move of leaving Cup in 2011 to become a full-time Nationwide Series driver. He was the title runner-up the past two seasons.

Obviously, it worked out well, but it also made him a bit of a trendsetter.

After five years in Cup, Regan Smith is running full time for JR Motorsports this season in the Nationwide Series. Brian Vickers is back in the series full time for the first time since he won the title in 2003. Sam Hornish Jr. is racing his second consecutive full season in Nationwide after three full years in Cup.

"Maybe I set an example by coming back and competing for a championship," Sadler said during last week's NASCAR media tour in Charlotte, N.C. "Now we're seeing a lot of other guys doing it, like Sam, Regan and my teammate, Brian."

Sadler moved from Richard Childress Racing to Joe Gibbs Racing this season to run one of two full-time Nationwide cars for JGR. Vickers will drive the other one.

Sadler was asked who he thought was his biggest competition for the championship.

"Vickers is, by far," Sadler said.

Sadler didn't know Vickers was standing right behind him when he said it.

"Oh, never mind," Sadler said when he saw Vickers. "Scratch all that."

"Too late," Vickers said.

NASCAR made a rule change two years ago that a driver had to declare in which series he wanted to run for a championship. It was a move that eliminated full-time Cup drivers from winning the Nationwide title, which happened for five consecutive season before the rule was changed.

"When they first changed the rules, no one knew whether it was going to help the series or hurt the series," Sadler said. "But now that it's had time to marinate, it's clearly helped the series.

"It made it healthier. It made the Nationwide people happier to have their own drivers winning the title and their own brand. It's brought different sponsors and more sponsors in. It's a win-win. Everybody in NASCAR has to be happy with it."