SONOMA, Calif. (June 26, 2011) — In only his fifth career Sprint Cup start on a road course, Regan Smith hustled his way to a 16th-place finish in Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway.
It was not only Smith’s best-ever road-race finish, but it was also a career-best road-race result for the Denver, Colo.-based Furniture Row Racing team.
“The goal this weekend was to make a big improvement with our road-racing program and I feel we accomplished that goal,” said Smith, whose previous best Cup finish on a road course was 30th at the 2007 Sonoma race.
Smith also did something on a road course that he has not done before and that is to lead laps. His No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet led for five laps.
“I agree that the improvement on a road course was accomplished today, but I still think we could have done better — it’s hard to walk away satisfied with a 16th-place finish,” explained Smith. “I am happy how we rebounded but we did let some positions slip away at the end.”
After leading laps 83-87, Smith came into the pits following a caution for four fresh tires and fuel. Since he was on a different pit cycle than some other cars, he restarted 15th when the green flag flew for the final time on Lap 92 of 110.
By Lap 96 he passed six cars and was running ninth. But with tire wear and continuous logjams on the 10-turn, 1.99-mile circuit, he fell back to 16th when the checkered flag waved.
“You always want more and I felt we could have had an even better finish,” noted Smith. “Pete (Rondeau, crew chief) called a great race from the pit box and our over-the-wall crew came through. It was an overall team effort.”
Smith started the race from the 24th position and managed to keep his Furniture Row Chevrolet on the track as cars were spinning every which way through the left-and-right-hand turns.
“For the little experience he has had on road courses, Regan did an outstanding job today,” said Rondeau. “He drove patiently and passed cars when the opportunity was there. It was a solid effort.”
The race winner was Kurt Busch. Rounding out the top-five in order were: Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer and Marcos Ambrose.
The next Sprint Cup race is Saturday night (July 2) at Daytona International Speedway.