Smith Hangs Tough, Finishes 8th in Charlotte
May 29, 2011
Perseverance, patience and the right pit strategy lifted Regan Smith from being two laps down to an eighth-place finish in Sunday night's Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
The result was Smith's third top-10 result after the 12th race of the season, and the second top-10 in the last three Sprint Cup point events.
"I guess you can say the longest race of the season paid off in our favor," said Smith. "We were patient, and crew chief Pete Rondeau made the right calls on the pit box. It all came together for our Furniture Row team at the end."
Smith, who started the race from the 20th position, was running in 12th place when he was penalized for a loose lug nut on Lap 234. The incident put Smith two laps down.
"We had a pretty good Furniture Row Chevrolet but then a lug nut issue knocked us to the back and it was a battle from that point on," explained Smith. "But we kept our cool and didn't quit fighting for track position."
It took until Lap 308 for Smith to get back on the lead lap. He fought hard in gaining track position and it wasn't until near the end of the race when he jumped from what appeared to be a top-15 finish to a top-10.
On the final caution (Lap 397), Smith came down pit road to take two tires and fuel. That decision paid off as a number of cars who gambled of not pitting, ran out of fuel as the race was concluded with a green-white-checkered overtime finish.
"The pit strategy was perfect, which was the main reason we made a pretty good leap near the end of the race," noted Smith. "It was a good points day as we continue to fight for a top-20 position in the driver standings."
Smith, who is in position to be one of the Chase selections due to his win in Darlington, S.C. three weeks ago, needs to finish in the top-20 to be a wild card pick for the 10-race championship playoff. He is currently in 29th place, 44 points from 20th. There are 14 more races before the Chase begins.
"It's definitely doable, we need to race smart like we did tonight," added Smith.
The race winner was Kevin Harvick. Rounding out the top-10 in order were: David Ragan, Joey Logano, Kurt Busch, AJ Allmendinger, Marcos Ambrose, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Smith, David Reutimann and Denny Hamlin.
The Sprint Cup Series next race is Sunday (June 5) at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan.