Regan Smith Posts Career-Best Qualifying Effort with Third Place Start at Bristol; Five Team Chevy Drivers to Start in Top-10 in Jeff Byrd 500
Bristol, Tenn. (March 18, 2011) – Regan Smith posted his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) career-best qualifying effort in the No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet to score the third place starting position for Sunday’s Jeff Byrd 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Paul Menard, No. 27 CertainTeed/Menards Chevrolet, will start along side Smith on the outside of row two with the fourth quickest time of the 43 starters in the fourth race of the 2011 season.
Five-time defending NSCS champion Jimmie Johnson will roll of sixth in the No. 48 Lowe’s/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet. Four-time champion Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet, will start seventh in the 500-lap/ 266.5-mile race.
Mark Martin, No. 5 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, qualified ninth to give Team Chevy five of the top-10 starters in the race.
A total of 17 Chevrolet drivers will take the green flag on Sunday.
Carl Edwards (Ford) is the pole sitter. Greg Biffle (Ford) and David Ragan (Ford) completed the top-five qualifiers.
The Jeff Byrd 500 Presented by Food City is scheduled to start at 1:00 p.m. ET with live broadcast coverage provided by FOX TV, PRN Radio and Sirius NASCAR Radio Channel 28.
REGAN SMITH, NO. 27 FURNITURE ROW CHEVROLET – QUALIFIED 3RD: “I don’t really know how much has changed (cloud cover); I don’t really know. But we were counting on it getting freer and worked on it based on that. The guys on the Furniture Row Chevy did a good job. I don’t think it’s going to be a pole, but hopefully a top 10.”
HOW WAS THAT LAP? DID YOU CATCH A CLOUD OR DID YOU SIMPLY HAVE PURE SPEED?: “We caught a cloud but we adjusted for the weather too. We were counting on it getting sunny here. We had pure speed. That was good. I just didn’t feel like I hit it perfect, which was bad. But all in all, it was a good lap. I don’t think it’s going to be a pole, but it should be a top 10 or maybe even a top five starting spot.”
IS THERE MORE OUT THERE?: “I think there’s a little more out there, yeah. But we’ll see. Everybody seems to be falling down a little.”
PAUL MENARD, NO. 27 CERTAIN TEED/MENARDS CHEVROLET, QUALIFIED 4TH: THIS TEAM JUST CONTINUES TO IMPRESS: “Man, Slugger (Richard Labbe, crew chief) is building an awesome race team. Richard Childress has an awesome organization. We have a fast race cars. Just a lot of fun right now. We slowed down a little bit from practice. I wish we could have got a little bit more, I think we had a legitimate shot at the pole today. Nonetheless a good starting spot, good pit stall and that is really important here.”
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S/KOBALT TOOLS CHEVROLET – QUALIFIED 6TH:”The first lap was good. We’ve been running faster on our second lap and I just got really loose off of (Turn) 4. Thankfully I didn’t tear the car up. But it’s been a great day. We were fast all day long. I’m very proud of the effort. Sixth isn’t terrible. We’ll take it. We’re in good shape.”
ON THE TIRE ISSUE, DID YOU HAVE ANY PROBLEMS TODAY? “We didn’t because we didn’t do any race trim stuff. Guys I guess were cording tires after 30 laps in race trim, which is well below the window of where that needs to happen. So I hate that we’re in this position. It’s not easy for the Nationwide guys or the Cup guys. Tomorrow we get one set of tires to practice on that are the correct tire to set our car up to. It’s put us in a really awkward position as a team because how do we set the car up? We’re not really sure what the tire is going to do or how it is going to act. We think that we’ll be okay with what they’re bringing (Goodyear) but they thought they brought the best one here today. So there is a lot of concern in the garage area.”
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 PEPSI MAX CHEVROLET, QUALIFIED 7TH: HOW WAS YOUR CAR? “I think we were better in one and two which is where we struggled in practice. Car is pretty good down there. I think has lost some grip so I feel like we picked up a little bit and faired pretty well for our Pepsi Max Chevrolet.”
KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET – QUALIFIED 15TH:”We just wanted to put in a solid lap and that was basically about a half-tenth slower than what we ran in practice but it seems like everybody is kind of right there. So it was a good run for our Budweiser Chevy and it’s been a good weekend so far.”
ON THE TIRE SITUATION, HAVE YOU HAD ANY PROBLEMS WITH THAT? “We corded some tires in about 30 laps, but all-in-all it’s the same for everybody. So I think it’ll be fine.”
DO YOU HAVE AN ADVANTAGE RUNNING THE NATIONWIDE RACE TOMORROW TO GET A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THE TIRE?
“Well, they’re different tires.”
OH, THAT’S RIGHT. “So, I think the laps are going to be critical just because the race track is going to rubber up and things are going to change. It’s definitely not going to hurt anything.”
HOW QUICKLY WILL THE TEAMS ADAPT? HOW BIG OF A DEAL IS IT?
“The technology that they have sitting in those trailers; and the people that they have, they already have a fairly good idea of what’s going to happen. So it’s not as big a deal as most everybody thinks it is.”
RYAN NEWMAN, NO. 39 TORNADOS CHEVROLET – QUALIFIED 21ST: ON THE LAP: “We struggled with the balance a good bit. But we’re just working through what our situation is going to be on top of what it is. So we’ve got a couple of things to work out. You know, I’m just proud of everybody to get this Tornados Chevy to where we are right now. We’ve got some work to do in race trim, but I’m sure we’re capable of it.”
ON THE TIRES “The only part of the race car that touches the race track is the tire. So it’s a big deal.”
PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT: REGAN SMITH, NO. 78 FURNITURE ROW CHEVROLET, QUALIFIED 3RD: ON HIS CAREER- BEST QUALIFYING EFFORT IN NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES COMPETITION: “It was a good lap. We weren’t quite that good in practice. The guys made some good adjustments. We had a pretty good idea of what we wanted to do. Just a little bit too tight. I figured with Carl (Edwards) and Greg (Biffle) going there at the end, we were probably in trouble [for the pole], but it was still a good lap and we will definitely take it for the Furniture Row Chevy.”
IS IT MORE IMPORTANT TO QUALIFY UP FRONT WHEN THE TIRES COULD BE SOMETHING OF AN UNKNOWN? “Just speaking about qualifying because I think I have qualified 30th here the past six times I have been here, its important to start up front no matter what tire we have on the car. It is going to be the same for everybody tomorrow with the tire change. I think starting up front is a big deal.”
HOW IMPORTANT IS A GOOD FINISH FOR YOU TO HAVE A GOOD FINISH SUNDAY AFTER YOUR GREAT START AT DAYTONA AND THEN TWO DISAPPOINTING FINISHES? “Obviously we want to have a good finish. That is definitely the first priority. We’ve been quick everywhere we’ve gone this year, we just haven’t had very good luck. We had a motor issue last week and then the Phoenix wreck with all the cars on the back straightaway there. I think the one good part for us when you look at team morale and stuff is really high because we’ve had speed. Last year at this time we were looking for speed which is tougher to find. We still want to have the good finish, don’t get me wrong.”
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