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Smith Says He’s Closing In On His First Victory

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, April 16 2011

Regan Smith pushes Kurt Busch up the front stretch in this year's Daytona 500. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Christa L Thomas)

By Mike Harris | Senior Writer

To say Regan Smith is due for some good fortune is probably an understatement.

Despite going through his first 102 NASCAR Sprint Cup races without a win, Smith goes into Sunday’s race at Talladega with a feeling of certainty that he is capable of taking the checkered flag. That feeling is based on past performance at the restrictor plate tracks.

Smith’s Furniture Row Chevrolet was leading the Daytona 500 in February with five laps remaining. But, with three laps to go and still running in third place in the hotly contested event, Smith’s car was pushed into the wall. Despite that, he hung on to finish seventh.

Though he has had his share of ups and downs on Talladega’s 2.66-mile superspeedway oval, his last visit there produced a 12th-place finish last November. And then there was that apparent victory in 2008 until NASCAR ruled that Smith passed Tony Stewart below the out-of-bounds yellow line as both drivers were heading to the checkered flag.

“We understand that so many things can happen at Talladega, but we’re going into the race knowing that we can contend for the win, just as we did in the Daytona 500,” Smith said. “I am really proud of our superspeedway program and the power we get from our ECR (Earnhardt-Childress Racing) engines.”

Just getting a solid top-10 win this weekend would be big for the Denver-based Furniture Row team. Since that strong finish at Daytona, Smith has had one bad break after another.

“Since Daytona, it’s been a rough time,’’ Smith explained. “I think our car has been collected in

Tony Stewart leads Regan Smith on the final lap of the August of 2008 Sprint Cup race at Talladega. Smith thought he won the race, Stewart got the paycheck. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

accidents four times, had a blown engine plus a mechanical failure (brake rotor). We really haven’t shown to anyone, including ourselves, what kind of potential we have because we haven’t been able to run many incident-free races.

“We just need to get a couple of good results and we’ll be back in the groove,” he added. “But we have to stay away from trouble. A lot easier said than done, especially at Talladega.”

Smith, who seemed to work with just about all the leaders at Daytona for his drafting success, says that finding the right partner will be key again in Talladega.

“Kurt (Busch) and I clicked very well together in Daytona,” Smith said. “If we can do it again, that would be great.”

In the 150-mile qualifying race at Daytona, Smith finished second to Busch. Both drivers also partnered with success in the Daytona 500.

Another thing that has been going well for Smith is qualifying. Heading into Saturday’s time trials for the Cup race, Smith leads all drivers with an average start of 6.3 this season.

“We’ve obviously got our act together in qualifying, so far,’’ he said. “We need to keep that going and add a little luck in the races and we’ll definitely surprise some people.’’

– Mike Harris can be reached at mharris@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, April 16 2011
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