Smith Recalls High-Profile Cup Start 5 Years Ago in Bristol
March 14, 2012
It's been five years since Regan Smith started his first Sprint Cup event, which came in the spring race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.
His debut in NASCAR's elite series was not only highly visible due to the circumstances surrounding the situation, but it was also filled with more pressure than any rookie would care to face.
Back in 2007 while affiliated with Ginn Racing, Smith was sharing the team's Cup ride with Mark Martin, who was ranked No. 1 in driver points prior to the Bristol race.
Then the legend handed the steering wheel to the rookie for his first Cup start at one of the toughest tracks on the NASCAR circuit.
"Talk about pressure -- Mark had the points lead going into Bristol and here comes this rookie, following a legend and driving the top-ranked car on the circuit," recalled Smith. "But it turned out to be a great experience. We had a decent day -- I think we finished in the mid 20s (25th). But we finished the race and that's always an accomplishment at Bristol."
Five years later Smith returns to Bristol with more of a goal than just to finish the race as the driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row/CSX Play it Safe Chevrolet.
Smith would like to see his team's early trend continue at the high-banked half-mile oval. The 28-year-old driver has improved his finishes in the first three races. He was 24th in the Daytona 500 opener, 20th in Phoenix and 15th in Las Vegas.
Smith enters Sunday's Food City 500 19th in points, nine positions better than where he was at after three races last year.
"We're not jumping with joy nor are we disappointed with the early results," said Smith. "We've had streaks of strong performances and feel that we're only going to get better."
For the second time this season, Smith's Furniture Row Chevrolet will carry the "I Brake for Trains" bumper sticker, which is part of CSX Transportation Play it Safe campaign to urge pedestrians and motorists to exercise caution around railroad tracks.
"Accidents might not be avoidable this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway, but they are avoidable at railroad crossings," stated Smith. "I am very proud to be part of the CSX Play it Safe campaign that has helped avoid numerous tragedies. We still have to get the word out and I am excited about my role as a CSX safety spokesperson."
Smith will indeed try to avoid the expected mishaps Sunday at the world's fastest half mile.
"Two key ingredients for success at Bristol are staying patient and remaining calm," explained Smith. "One hiccup can easily send you home early."