The checkered flag has just waved at the 2011 Southern 500 at Darlington, S.C. and boy, was there a lot of drama in the closing laps of tonight's race under a beautiful moonlit sky.
Regan Smith, a former NASCAR young gun who never was able to fulfill his potential, became one of the more unlikely winners in recent memory, outracing Carl Edwards despite having old tires. His victory and subsequent celebration with other drivers would make their mothers proud.
However, what occurred after the race with two of NASCAR's bad boys, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch, would have made their moms blush red with embarrassment. All in all, it was just another night at the Southern 500.
Before we talk about the topic of Busch and Harvick, which will surely dominate the headlines heading into next week, let's give Regan Smith his due.
There are times in sports and life in general that you don't fully appreciate someone until you see the respect they get from their peers.
If anything can be learned from this wild evening, it's that the NASCAR community truly respects Smith.
One could argue Regan Smith has never been given the opportunity to shine in NASCAR. He's been a victim of team mergers during a rough economy, losing his ride after a 2008 Rookie of the Year season, a dubious honor considering he didn't have a single top ten finish.
Since 2009, he has driven for Furniture Row Racing, a small Denver sponsor. Since '09, Smith has been a tweener of sorts, a driver not bad enough to be considered a start-and-park racer, but not really seen as competitive.
For his team's standards, he has had a very strong 2011 with a lot of strong qualifying runs and a very respectable finish at the Daytona 500. However, he'd never been seen as a real threat to win a race; until tonight.
With a late-race caution looming, every lead lap race car rushed for the pits, except three, one being Smith. This gamble paid off fully as he beat Carl Edwards to the line for his first career win.
Regardless of how they finished, every driver in a post race interview congratulated Smith's achievement. Carl Edwards stopped Smith before Victory Lane to offer his praise.
Fellow drivers Greg Biffle and Brad Keselowski (who finished third and helped Smtih get a late-race push) congratulated him at Victory Lane.
It was a truly heartwarming moment for Smith, who gave his mother a great Mother's Day gift.
What made the moment even better is Smith told the viewers that his mom, who usually attends every race was at the tornado-ravaged Tuscaloosa, Ala., area to assist animals who were victims of the storm.
What is a shame is after tonight, no one will be talking about this, but rather the controversy surrounding two NASCAR drivers that always seem to be in the middle of it.
While Smith was trying to hold on to his improbable lead, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer were fighting for positioning within the top ten.
Coming off a turn, the three tried to squeeze into an area where three cars could not make it. Bowyer was the loser in this ordeal; he spun out and had his car destroyed.
Seconds later though, fans saw Harvick get spun out by Busch, costing the No. 29 team any chance of victory. And to think this was before the real fireworks started.
With Harvick and his team vowing revenge on their radio, Harvick played a cat-and-mouse game after the race with the No. 18 car around the pit entrance.
Eventually, Harvick parked his car just feet into the pit entrance, blocking Busch. The two stayed in their cars for several minutes until Harvick emerged out of his and immediately descended on his rival.
With Harvick trying to punch Busch in his car, Kyle stepped on the gas pedal, put Harvick's driverless car into a wall and sped away. It was childlike antics by two men using equipment that are anything but toys.
It's certainly not the first dust up between these two men and it will obviously not be the last. Normally, there is no issue when two men have a dust up post race, in fact, NASCAR probably likes the ratings that result from it.
However, having a driverless car get sent into a wall with no one expecting it is no laughing matter.
NASCAR will nip this situation in the bud and hopefully no one will see this happen again. While we will see analysts talking about this fight, one can hope that the great story of Smith's victory will not completely go overlooked.
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