Offseason Surprise Leads to Entry in Budweiser Shootout for Regan Smith
February 9, 2011
The best piece of news that Furniture Row Racing driver Regan Smith received during the offseason was that he qualified to participate in NASCAR's traditional opener - the Budweiser Shootout, scheduled for Saturday night (FOX), 8 p.m. ET.
When NASCAR released the new qualification criteria in mid January for the non-points, 75-lap, 187.5-mile race at Daytona International Speedway, Smith was on the list of eligible drivers based on his status as a former NASCAR Sprint Cup rookie of the year (2008). It will mark the first time in Smith's Cup career that he will compete in the Budweiser Shootout.
"I was both surprised and ecstatic when I heard the news," said the 27-year-old Smith. "The Budweiser Shootout is not only a prestigious event, but also an excellent opportunity to get our Furniture Row Chevrolet dialed in for the main show -- the Daytona 500 (Feb. 20). Actually, it's a morale boost for the entire team to be involved in the race instead of watching it on television or on top of our hauler."
The thought of starting a new season for Smith and the No. 78 Denver, Colo.-based team brings on optimism, optimism and more optimism.
"The slate is clean and I am sure all of the teams head into the new campaign with high hopes," stated Smith. "Our higher-than-normal excitement level is based on how we progressed throughout the 2010 season, especially during the final 10 races. We also understand that racing can be a cruel sport and knock you down just when you think you have all the pieces of the puzzle in place. Right now all of our attitudes are nothing but positive."
The 2010 season started off slow for Smith, which was expected since he only competed on a part-time basis for Furniture Row Racing the previous year. But with a new competition staff, led by crew chief Pete Rondeau and competition director Mark McArdle, the team steadily improved and turned heads during the stretch run, which saw Smith post three top-13 finishes in the final seven races. He also qualified in the top 10 in the last three races.
"We had a good offseason and are raring to go," said Rondeau, who took over the crew chief role in May of last year. "I have a good feeling -- the potential is there to be more successful than last year. I'm an even keel type of person, and what we need to do is to continue to stay focused and not get ahead of ourselves."
The Budweiser Shootout will be conducted in two segments of 25 and 50 laps with a 10-minute break between segments.