New England Native Rondeau Returns to Roots
September 21, 2011
For Pete Rondeau, crew chief of the No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet driven by Regan Smith, this weekend's Sprint Cup race -- the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway -- carries a special significance.
Rondeau is a New England native, hailing from Saco, Maine, located 90 miles north from New Hampshire Motor Speedway's Magic Mile in Loudon.
Before he headed south to North Carolina in 1998 to work full-time in NASCAR, Rondeau drove race cars at short tracks throughout New England, including sportsman cars in the American Canadian Series. He also raced seven times at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in what was formerly known as the Busch North Series.
"I guess you could say New Hampshire Motor Speedway is my home track on the NASCAR circuit," said Rondeau. "It's always nice to return to my roots in New England. I would like nothing better than to walk away with a strong finish on Sunday."
Rondeau knows the feeling about walking out of race tracks following a stalwart result. He directed Smith to an impressive victory earlier in the year in the Southern 500 at the daunting Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. He also saw his driver lead the Daytona 500 with a few laps remaining, finish eighth at Charlotte Motor Speedway and post a third-place result at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the Brickyard 400.
"We had our goals at the beginning of the year and have achieved most of them," noted the cool, calm and analytical Rondeau. "We definitely have done enough good things this season to put together a nice highlight video."
Rondeau said the biggest thing he would like to see in the final nine races is consistency from the single car, Denver, Colo.-based Furniture Row Racing team.
"We need more consistency with our finishes," explained Rondeau. "It seems like we have a couple of good races followed by a couple of bad ones. I would like to see us have results between the top-10 and top-15 in the remaining races. That would be a great springboard for 2012. When you finish in the 30s that puts you way behind in points. We've had too many of those types of finishes with most of them as a result of being collected in accidents or mechanical issues."
One of those disheartening finishes in the 30s that Rondeau talked about came at New Hampshire in the July race. As the fuel-mileage race was winding down Smith's Furniture Row Chevrolet was running solidly in 11th place. But as what happened to a number of others drivers, Smith's car ran out of gas, which relegated him to a 33rd-place finish.
"That was one of many races that got away from us," said Rondeau. "Hopefully we'll run as strong this weekend as we did in July at New Hampshire, but the only difference is to capitalize on the strong performance with a solid finish."
Smith, who did a masterful job in conserving fuel to finish 17th in Monday's rain-delayed race at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., agrees with his crew chief when it comes to consistency.
"Pete has done a great job for us and I know that being back in New England is a special weekend for him," said Smith. "I do agree with what Pete has been saying about us needing more consistency to get to that next level of competition. You look at the record of the Chase drivers and consistency is key to their success."
Smith is coming off two straight top-20 finishes of 18th in Richmond and 17th at Chicagoland.
"Both of those finishes should have been better," said Smith. "Our goal every week is to run in the top-10. And that's what we'll strive for on Sunday."