By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
The JD Motorsports quartet stayed with the lead pack all afternoon and after five overtime attempts, two of their entries finished inside the top-10 in Saturday’s PowerShares QQQ 300 at Daytona International Speedway for the second consecutive year.
Leading the way was 25-year-old Garrett Smithley, bringing the No. 0 Flex Seal Chevrolet Camaro home in fifth after overcoming a spin in the tri-oval grass on Lap 106.
Ryan Truex had a strong run and tried to pass Smithley at the entrance of Turn 4, but the gap slimmed and ran into the back of the Smithley, sending him off the track.
The Ligonier, Pennsylvania native sustained no significant damage and kept on fighting, avoiding the remaining Daytona carnage and improved his track-best of eighth from last February with his first career top-5 in 67 starts. He was also the only JD Motorsports car to have a turn in the front, leading 2 of 143 laps.
Smithley’s top-5 finish not only marked JD Motorsports’ fifth-career top-5, they’ve now scored at least one top-5 finish in consecutive seasons for the first time. Since car owner Johnny Davis began his second stint fielding cars in 2002, Saturday marked the team’s first top-5 finish at a Cup-companion race.
Smithley’s comeback was praised by 2010 series champion Brad Keselowski at the conclusion of Fox Sports 1’s telecast.
After the race, Smithley tweeted about his breakthrough performance.
What an incredible day!!! The @JDMotorsports01 team worked their tails off all off season and brought 4 bad fast cars to @DISupdates First top 5 for me, and a heck of a start to 2018. Let’s do this. #PatienceNeverGiveUp @GetFlexSeal #Daytona pic.twitter.com/FEjBIq5DSf
— Garrett Smithley (@GarrettSmithley) February 18, 2018
Chastain was the second JD Motorsports entry to score a top-10, recording a ninth-place finish in the No. 4 Flex Seal car. He ran quietly inside the top-20, but steadily improved his track position and recorded his eighth-career top-10 finish, half of those coming at the World Center of Racing.
The other two entries, Vinnie Miller and 1998 race winner Joe Nemechek weren’t as fortunate after being caught up in separate wrecks late in the race. The incidents affected their performance as the two finished 20th and 23rd respectively.
During a Lap 11 restart, Miller was running 19th before getting turned by Josh Williams in Turn 1, sending him into the wall and damaged his right front fender. Miller straightened out his car and limped it back in the pits.
Thanks to the valiant effort by the No. 01 Flex Glue team, he beat the six-minute damage clock and salvaged a lead lap finish in his second career start.
After finishing third in Friday’s Camping World Truck Series race, Nemechek was running in the top-10 throughout the final stage and duked it out with the Cup stars and Xfinity regulars. However, luck ran out for the 1992 series champion after the big one struck at the backstretch on Lap 122.
Aric Almirola bumped drafted leader Kyle Larson multiple times before Larson’s car snapped and began the wreck. While Chastain narrowly escaped the melee, Nemechek spun after going in the infield grass to avoid the crash. Nemechek’s No. 15 Fleetwing Chevy went back across in front of the pack, getting drilled by Matt Tifft and Jeremy Clements.
Despite being hit by multiple cars, Nemechek’s battered car stayed on the track and ended up the last car running on the lead lap.
JD Motorsports will look to capitalize its momentum next Saturday in the Rinnai 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.