TALLADEGA, Ala. (April 17, 2011) — Considering the bad luck that Regan Smith has endured the past two months you would think a 15th-place result would bring on a few smiles.
In fact, it was more of a long face for the Furniture Row Racing driver following Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway.
“Guys, we were much better than 15th, no doubt about it,” stated Smith to his crew after taking the checkered flag in the second of four superspeedway races of the season.
Smith later said, “We ran up front for most of the race but got shuffled back near the end and couldn’t find the same drafting success we had earlier. These cars are so sensitive — they can draft well with one car but not with another. I don’t know why. But I do know that it was sure disappointing not mixing it up at the end and contending for the victory.”
Smith’s No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet was indeed one of the premier cars at the 2.66-mile oval.
Smith led five different times during the 188-lap race and it appeared that he would at least better his seventh-place finish he earned in the previous superspeedway event — the season-opening Daytona 500.
“Our Furniture Row Chevrolet had the power to win this deal,” said Smith. “Right now it’s hard to take, but in a few days I’ll probably look back and say, ‘It was a pretty good day overall.’ ”
With 25 laps remaining in the race Smith radioed his crew chief Pete Rondeau and said, “I am happy with the car.”
At that time Smith was easily running in the top five and enjoying drafting success with either Paul Menard or Dave Blaney. But a few laps later on Lap 169, Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin got tangled in front of Smith, who did a brilliant driving job to avoid an accident. But the incident shuffled Smith back to 18th place and without his drafting partners that he teamed with for the majority of the race.
“It was nobody’s fault, we got pushed back,” explained Smith. “I hooked up with the 31 (Jeff Burton) and we just couldn’t get a head of steam when we needed to. Again, it nobody’s fault, just a quirk of superspeedway racing.”
The race winner was Jimmie Johnson. Rounding out the top-five in order were: Clint Bowyer, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kevin Harvick.
The Sprint Cup Series will have the coming Easter weekend off. The next Cup race is Saturday night (April 30) at Richmond International Raceway.