DENVER, Colo. (June 1, 2011) — With one-third of the 36-race NASCAR Sprint Cup season completed, Regan Smith has already checked off five of his preseason goals.
first career top-10 finish
first career top-five finish
first career win
first career outside pole
first career Sprint All-Star berth
There are a few check marks still missing, including one for a first career pole. But looking at Smith’s starting positions in the first 12 races an argument could be made that he has overachieved in his qualifying efforts.
The Furniture Row Racing driver shares the best starting average of 9.83 with Carl Edwards. Smith nearly earned his first pole at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, but settled for second.
There have also been a few other 2011 highlights — finishing second in the Daytona 500 qualifying race and nearly pulling off a Daytona 500 victory. He led the 500 with five laps remaining, but fell out of contention a few laps later when he was involved in a multicar accident. Despite the accident, he still managed to finish seventh in NASCAR’s premier race.
“I guess when you sit back and analyze the first 12 races, it’s been a pretty good start for the Furniture Row Racing team,” said Smith. “I feel we reached a new level of competition and are close to another level. We let some races slip away, but overall it hasn’t been that bad.”
Smith added, “The success thus far is a credit to the team’s ownership, management, competition department, and to all the loyal crew guys, who always give more than 100 percent.”
Smith is coming off his third top-10 finish of the season with an eighth-place result in Sunday night’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
As the Cup series begins the next third of the season this weekend with the STP 400 at the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway, Smith is looking to add a few more check marks.
“Coming into the season we felt the mile-and-a-half and two-mile tracks would be our strong suit,” noted Smith. “However, we didn’t take advantage of those tracks early on in Las Vegas, California and Texas. But last week we brought home an eighth-place finish in Charlotte. With Kansas being another 1.5 miler, I feel optimistic that our Furniture Row Chevrolet can produce a solid finish.”
With 14 more races remaining before the Chase begins, Smith’s main mission is to get into the top-20 in driver points so he can become Chase-eligible as a wild card selection due to his Darlington victory last month. He currently sits 29th in the standings, 44 points from the top-20.
“It’s doable to make the top-20 as long we don’t beat ourselves,” said Smith. “We have to race smart and avoid trouble.”