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Smith holds off Larson to win Nationwide race

BROOKLYN, Mich. (AP) - The rain drops splashed down on the pavement at Michigan International Speedway about an hour after Regan Smith's victory Saturday.

Too late to interrupt the race - and that was fine with Smith and crew chief Greg Ives.

``I've had a lot of different situations over the years, of weather and how it plays into it,'' Ives said. ``I had the radar on my screen, and I saw it breaking up. None of my strategy really came off the weather - whether or not the rain was going to come. ... If it would have came and rained us out, it happens, but I wasn't going to guarantee myself anything on the rain.''

Smith won the Nationwide Series race, holding off Kyle Larson in the final 10 laps and more than doubling his lead in the points standings. He took the lead with 13 laps remaining when Parker Kligerman had to pit. The race was run under threatening weather conditions, but all 125 laps and 250 miles were completed with no delays.

Kligerman led for 13 laps toward the end, but the rain that might have helped him didn't arrive in time.

``We played it perfectly for that situation,'' Kligerman said. ``There was debris everywhere the last 20 laps. Of course, no one threw a caution, so we ran out of fuel and finished wherever we finished.''

Kligerman finished 25th. Sam Hornish Jr., who is second in the standings, fell from 23 points behind Smith to 58 points back. He finished 32nd - his day ended early because of an oil pump problem.

``One of the pieces of debris that were flying around on the track probably from one of the cars that got wrecked early on came through the nose of the car and actually broke the oil pump,'' Hornish said. ``That basically allowed that front bearing to dump a bunch of oil out of the engine.''

Smith won for the second time this year. It was his 11th straight top-10 finish, and although Larson closed the gap a bit toward the end, he wasn't able to overtake Smith's No. 7 Chevrolet.

Smith's final margin of victory was 0.33 seconds. He also won at Talladega in May - but he was unsatisfied with recent results despite his lead in the standings.

``We didn't feel good. I think every time we go to the racetrack, we want this team to be the team that's up front, that's leading laps, that's contending for wins,'' Smith said. ``Unless we're winning every race, we're not content.''

Smith won last year at Homestead in his debut race with JR Motorsports. He now has three Nationwide victories since teaming up with co-owner Dale Earnhardt Jr.

``Regan had kind of been at the top of my list for a couple years,'' Earnhardt said. ``I think as a company that we've actually batted a pretty good percentage on tapping into good talent.''

Paul Menard finished third Saturday, followed by Kyle Busch and Trevor Bayne. Pole winner Austin Dillon was 20th.

Larson, a series rookie, took second for the second time, but he has yet to win.

``It's not bad, finishing second,'' Larson said. ``It would have been nice to get it today for Jason Leffler.''

Leffler died earlier in the week in a sprint car crash in New Jersey. Larson's own background is in sprint cars, and he drives for Turner Scott Motorsports - a team Leffler used to drive for.

Smith also acknowledged Leffler after his victory.

``Although I wasn't as close as some guys around here were to him - definitely knew him and had a lot of conversations with him,'' Smith said. ``Certainly, he's going to be missed, and we don't want to forget about his family.''

Copyright 2017 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.
Any commercial use or distribution without the express written
consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

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