Smith Aiming for Breakthrough Road Race
June 22, 2011
Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. will be Regan Smith's third career start at the 10-turn, 1.99-mile road circuit, and his fifth overall on a road course.
Though he enjoys driving up and down hills and hustling through curves making left-and-right-hand turns, he knows that more experience is necessary before he feels totally comfortable on a road course.
"I like the road course races, but I am not sure if the road circuits like me," said a candid Smith, driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet. "The Sonoma race will be my fifth career start on a road course and I haven't had that much success so far. But I know that will change, it's a matter of getting more experience."
Smith enters the Toyota/Save Mart 350k with more optimism than he has had in past years. The reason is due to a recent test session at the Virginia International Raceway (VIR) road course.
"We tested the Furniture Row Chevrolet at VIR last week and were really pleased with the results," noted Smith. "Now we have to transfer what we learned to this weekend's race at Infineon Raceway. When you race on ovals nearly every week, this is a nice change of pace to make both left-and-right-hand turns. "
Smith, who is enjoying his best season as a professional stock car driver, is looking to check off a strong road course result. He's already checked off this season his first Cup win (May 7, Darlington, S.C.), first top-10 (7th in Daytona 500), first outside pole (Richmond) and first All-Star Race berth.
"Our expectations might not be high this weekend, but I am hoping for a road course breakthrough at the same time," explained Smith. "As the old cliche goes, I am cautiously optimistic. I really want to improve on the road circuits. Our next road race at Watkins Glen (central New York) is the closest track to where I grew up in Cato, New York and you always want to do well for your hometown fans and family."
In his previous two starts at Infineon Raceway, Smith finished 30th (2007) and 38th last year.
Smith is coming off a heartbreaking result in last week's Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway.
On the final restart with five laps remaining, Smith was holding down 11th place. But as drivers were jockeying for positions during the closing laps, Smith made contact with another car, which resulted in a cut tire. He limped to the checkered flag with a 33rd-place finish.
"That ending in Michigan hurt," said Smith. "That's why a solid performance this weekend is important. We want to have some momentum going into Daytona next week."