Full-Time Gig Has Smith Comfy In Furniture Car
By Rick Minter | Senior Writer
Hampton, Ga. – For most of his Sprint Cup career, Regan Smith has been known for almost winning the October, 2008, Sprint Cup race at Talladega. Some will still argue that he did win since he crossed the finish line first only to be penalized for going below the yellow line, a move many argue that he made because eventual winner Tony Stewart forced him there.
Then he drew attention to himself and his team by running up a string of 53 consecutive races in which he was running at the finish. And those also were his first 53 races, making the string even more impressive. That all ended with a crash at Richmond last September.
But while Smith was piling up his RAF (Running at Finish) numbers, he also was accumulating a good many on the DNS (Did Not Start) side as his Furniture Row race team was running only a limited schedule.
That’s all changed this year, and the team is planning to run a full Cup schedule. It also has formed an alliance with Richard Childress Racing, a move that has already facilitated an information-sharing system and will eventually lead to Smith driving a Childress-prepared car.
“There have been a lot of good changes, a lot of changes for the positive,” Smith said on Friday as he studied Atlanta Motor Speedway data provided by the RCR team. “We ran really well at California, and we were decent at Las Vegas. We were capable of running in the top 12.”
His only really bad outing this year was in the season-opening race at Daytona, where he crashed and finished 39th.
“If you throw Daytona, which was just a racing deal, out of the mix, we would be sitting pretty good in points,” he said.
As it is he’s 25th, and for now he has the cushion of the points earned last year by Casey Mears at RCR to rely on. That means that at a track like Atlanta, where he’s struggled in the past, he can focus on a race set-up instead of devoting his and his team’s resources to simply making the starting field.
“It’s a different approach, a different mentality,” Smith said. “It’s changed the way we practice.”
He said that now he can start practice by making a 10- or 15-lap run simulating racing conditions, then follow that with a couple of qualifying runs, saving some of his allotted tire stack for race practice on Saturday.
“We’ve never had that luxury in past, and that’s a big deal,” Smith said. “It allows you to go out and get a better read on your race car. If you have to qualify in, you go through all six sets of sticker tires on Friday, and it hampers you throughout the course of the whole weekend.”
Smith said the alliance with RCR doesn’t mean that he participates with the RCR drivers in de-briefing sessions, but he does have the option of talking to Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton or Clint Bowyer if he needs some help.
He said one of those first conversations might come this weekend at AMS.
“This isn’t one of my better race tracks, never has been,” Smith said. “This weekend might be the prime time to start that.”
The alliance should be especially helpful once the Cup circuit ditches the rear wing in favor of a spoiler.
Smith said that last year, by the end of the season his team was three or four months behind because of missing races and getting behind on technology.
Now, he said, his team should be learning four times as fast as before.
“If we were going at it alone, there’s only so much we can do, so many hours in a day,” he said. “It’s going to be huge for us when we switch to the spoiler, and hopefully we can turn the table and help (RCR) learn.”
– Rick Minter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.orgNo Comment