Smith Rebounds to Finish 16th in Martinsville
April 1, 2012
Furniture Row Racing driver moves to 18th in driver points
Regan Smith rebounded to a 16th-place finish in Sunday's Goody's Fast Relief 500 Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway.
The late-race turnaround for the Furniture Row Racing team was a result of sound pit strategy, quick pit stops and a combination of patient and savvy driving.
Due to a car handling issue coupled with a lack of early cautions in the 500-lap race, Smith fell two laps down before the halfway mark and was stuck in the low to mid 20s in track position.
"Once we got the Furniture Row/CSX Play it Safe Chevrolet working better, we were passing lead-lap cars, but had nothing to show for it in track position," said Smith. "When you're two laps down that's a major handicap. But we came back, thanks to great pit strategy by our crew chief Pete Rondeau and fast pit stops by our over-the-wall crew."
A decision by Rondeau not to pit following a caution on Lap 315 resulted in Smith going from two to one-lap down on the .526-mile short track.
"That gave us the opportunity to pass some cars for track position - a great call by Pete," explained Smith.
As Smith was running in the teens and conserving fuel to reach the checkered flag a caution came out with two laps remaining. Rondeau was tempted to have Smith stay out, but then listened to his gut and called in Smith for fuel and fresh tires.
"That was a tough call at the time," noted Smith. "But it turned out to be the right one since the race was extended an extra 15 laps with two green-white-checkered restarts. We always want better than 16th, but considering how we started and where we were at for a long time I consider it a respectable result."
Rondeau was also pleased with how the team rallied in the end.
"I was really proud of our pit crew for the excellent job they did today," said Rondeau. "And Regan stayed patient and made a nice charge in the end. A great team effort."
When asked about his strategic pit calls, Rondeau said, "Sometimes you're put in a position to make a difficult call and you just hope it works out. Today it did and I am happy it helped in our comeback."
The result was Smith's fourth top-20 finish in the first six races. He gained one position to 18th in the driver point standings. Smith is actually tied with Juan Pablo Montoya for 17th, but Montoya gets the tiebreaker nod.
The race winner was Ryan Newman. Rounding out the top-10 in order were: AJ Allmendinger, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth, Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart, Aric Almirola, Brad Keselowski and Clint Bowyer. Only 12 cars finished on the lead lap.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will take Easter weekend off before resuming action the following week for a Saturday night race (April 14) at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.