Big-Time Rookie Now Has No Full-Time Ride
By Rick Minter | Senior Writer
The NASCAR world moves at a rapid pace, on and off the track. Today’s heroes can quickly become tomorrow’s zeroes. The focus moves from one issue to the next, with seemingly minor incidents getting major play at times.
Oftentimes, fans and the media find themselves about a week behind the curve – still thinking Martinsville and short-track racing while the circuit has moved on to superspeedway racing at Texas.
And they sometimes suffer from short memories.
So sometimes it’s good to go back and look at the headlines from the past and compare them to reality. Take last year’s Rookie of the Year contest for instance.
At Daytona in February, 2008, all the talk was about the sterling rookie class, a group loaded with open-wheel racing credentials – Jacques Villeneuve, Dario Franchitti, Sam Hornish Jr. and Patrick Carpentier.
But fast forward to Homestead and look who won.
Remember Regan Smith?
He’s probably best known for taking the checkered flag in the fall race at Talladega only to be stripped of the win for driving below the yellow line, even though a good argument could be made that eventual winner Tony Stewart forced him there.
What he’s not as well known for may be his most impressive stat. Throughout his entire Sprint Cup career he’s been running at the finish every time – all 44 times in all.
But the guy who appears to have no problems avoiding points-killing DNFs (Did Not Finish) also has a problem with DNSs (Did Not Start).
Despite his resume, Smith has no full-time ride this year. Instead he’s running a limited schedule with Furniture Row Racing. Rather than sulking, he’s approaching the season with a positive attitude, proud to be racing with a team that’s serious about its future.
“Sure the starts could have been higher, but I’m happy with Furniture Row,” Smith said. “I’m committed to them full time. And they’re committed to me We’re going to run as good as we possibly can.
“I have lots of goals left, and I think I’m a good enough race driver to compete with the best of them.”
His DNF stats indicate that he’s a smart race driver, and he agrees the streak, even with its close calls, is no fluke.
“There have been a bunch of almost misses,” he said. “I’ve been in wrecks on the last lap at Talladega and limped back to the pits.
“At Dover a piece of debris went through the radiator, but I caught it quick and we were able to change it and finish the race.”
He is fortunate to have never suffered a blown engine, but most mechanics will attest that the driver has a lot to do with engine durability. Smith agrees.
“I know guys that have blown up three motors in 10 laps of practice on a road course,” he said. “Some are really aggressive in practice. I try to conserve in practice and take care of my stuff until the race.”
Part of his job this year is taking care of himself mentally and physically when he’s not racing so he’ll be ready when he does. He’s only scheduled to run 10 more times, including this week at Phoenix. He said he’s hitting the gym pretty often and he’s studying the races he missed to compile his own set of notes for the future. He watches the broadcasts on TV and uses NASCAR.com’s TrackPass to listen in on driver-to-crew radio traffic.
“I make notes on what drivers and crews are saying and what the changes they make seem to do to the cars and how the race track changes throughout the race,” he said. “It kills me to be home watching, but I have to suck it up and make the most of the situation.”3 Comments