Posted on: March 7, 2012 7:16 pm
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Posted on: March 7, 2012 7:09 pm
By Pete Pistone
Regan Smith and Paul Menard were uninjured in a road accident while in Colorado Wednesday morning.
The two Sprint Cup Series drivers, Smith’s wife Megan and a friend were in a Chevy Silverado driving to a ski slope when the accident happened at approximately 8:45 a.m..
The foursome escaped injury after the vehicle being driven by Smith slid through a patch of ice, skidded off the road and into several trees.
Both Smith and Menard will compete in Sunday's Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Posted on: December 12, 2011 12:31 pm
Edited on: December 16, 2011 3:41 pm
By Pete Pistone
Furniture Row Racing made some huge strides in 2011 as the team continued to battle against the odds as a single car entity headquartered in Denver, Colorado.
Despite being a solo effort based well outside of the Charlotte NASCAR hub, Furniture Row can proudly look back at a year that saw Regan Smith give the organization a win in the Southern 500.
The 2011 season saw Smith and Furniture Row Racing score that Darlington as well as two top-fives and five top-tens - a marked improvement since the team did not have even a single top ten finish prior to the 2011 season.
"We made so much progress this season and feel that we're on the edge of hitting a new level of competition," said Smith, who finished twenty-sixth in the final standings.
Although the organization shares an alliance with Richard Childress Racing, team owner Barney Visser has kept its headquarters in the Denver area despite the logistical challenges.
"Basically he’s said ‘this is my hometown,’” Smith told the Denver post about his boss. “I want the race team here, I live here, I want to be able to go to it, and see it, and have my hands on it and being involved with it,' and that's what he's done.
"It's a little more travel. We have to organize stuff ahead of time when it comes to parts, pieces, engines and things like that, but it's worked out really well and we've got great people out there."
Despite overcoming the odds, Visser says that operating in Colorado rather than in North Carolina doesn’t provide any additional satisfaction for his success.
"The fact that I've proven people wrong doesn't really mean anything to me," Visser said. "Just knowing that we can win every time we can go to a race track — really knowing it — is just huge for me. It adds a lot of thrill to the game. It's a lot of fun."
Smith’s Mother’s Day weekend win at Darlington was the high point of Furniture Row’s fun in 2011. The team outran Carl Edwards to the checkered flag despite not having four fresh tires and Smith called it the biggest accomplishment of his racing career.
“This race is so special and so meaningful,” Smith said in victory lane. “We were standing there looking at the names and the faces on the trophy, and you just look at it, and you think, ‘My face is going to be there right next to these guys, and it’ll be there forever.”
Things leveled off a bit as the summer wore on for Smith but he was still able to stay in the hunt for several more top five and ten finishes before the year ended.
And the team was also able to escape a potentially disastrous situation when its hauler nearly caught fire at Talladega in October.
“They were just taking the fuel probe off the can and it just ignited – it blew up,” General Manager Joe Garone said of the incident that ignited flames directly next to the team’s hauler. “The tractor got a little bit of damage. It melted all the hoses. … We just need to have this one repaired. It was more scary than anything.”
The team comes into the new campaign virtually unchanged with Smith back as driver and crew chief Pete Rondeau returning to call the shots.
The veteran crew chief likes the foundation the team is building and understands the benefits of being aligned with RCR as well.
“When you’re a single-car team in this day and age, you need to be aligned with another operation,” Rondeau said. “And fortunately for Furniture Row Racing, we have aligned ourselves with one of the best in Richard Childress Racing.
“Our technical and engineering alliance with RCR have made us a better team, no doubt about that. The data we receive from RCR has been very beneficial to our program and one of the reasons we made positive strides during the end of the 2010 season. RCR had three teams in the Chase in 2010, and to be aligned with those three teams is pretty stout. It’s been a great relationship with the folks at RCR and I anticipate more of the same in 2011.”
Rondeau feels comfortable coming into 2012 and sees no reason why improvement cannot continue.
“It’s all about consistency and keeping up with technology,” he said. “We kept on saying in 2010 that this is the first year of a three-year process.
“We made strides this past year and expect that to keep on going in 2012.”
Smith echoes the sentiment of his crew chief.
"We made some big gains this season as a team and accomplished many of our goals," said Smith. "But we still didn't accomplish everything we wanted to so there's still plenty to get done. But with that said, I feel we are at a point where we are ready to reach another level of competition. I have the same feeling I had last year at this time."
The odds are still stacked against Furniture Row as long as it remains a one car team. Confidence is high within the organization after the successful 2011 campaign and the Darlington win proved under the right circumstances Smith can drive with the best in the business. But a realistic goal in 2012 should be maybe another trip to victory lane and a finish inside the first twenty of the point standings. Anything more would have to be considered an extraordinary accomplishment in this David vs. Goliath story.
Posted on: July 31, 2011 10:51 pm
Edited on: August 1, 2011 11:37 am
Posted by Pete Pistone
The Chevy was good today. It was probably a top-10 car, ninth or 10th place car. Didn't have track position for a long time. When the 51 car wrecked, played our hand for us, didn't have a choice but to come in and clean the grill off because we were overheating right away almost immediately. Cleaned the grill off, looked at the fuel strategy, and said, you know what, let's top it off. We had nothing to lose. We got to start in the back of the pack anyway.
They kept pulling me back, pulling me back about saving fuel. We'll see how much is left in the tank after all is said and done. I felt like I had a little bit to go a bit further.
But certainly can't be disappointed with third, and in particular when somebody like Paul wins, I have very many close friends on this circuit, that's one of them. He was at my victory celebration; I plan on being at his tonight or tomorrow or whenever it is.
KERRY THARP: We'll take questions for Regan.
Q. You talked a little bit before you came in about the fuel mileage races, absolutely hating them. Could you expand on that a little bit.
REGAN SMITH: I think it's pretty simple. I hate 'em. I don't care I don't think they're fun racing. I don't think there's anything good about them. I'm certainly sure there's cars that ran up front, led a lot of laps, that ended up 10th or 12th. I don't know who was up front most today, I was just worrying about our race and what we had to do to get track position.
It's a product of how we're racing right now. I think every week we know it's going to be a fuel mileage race and we try to plan for that, to work around it accordingly.
That's what we're doing. Even when it's races that aren't necessarily fuel mileage races, they still play a part in how much track position you can get, who can pit sooner so you have that track position.
It's here to stay. It's not going to go away. We'll learn to like it and to adjust to it. I guess I should be happy for it today because we had a good day and Paul won. So, you know, I'll take back that statement. I love fuel mileage races right now (laughter).
Q. You won the Southern 500. Running top three at Indianapolis. I know you're kind of busy in the car, but did you let your mind wander to think you might be able to win Indy and Darlington the same year?
REGAN SMITH: Hell, yeah, I did. I saw Jamie do it last year with the Brickyard and the 500. I certainly thought we had a shot to do that.
The thing that was going to hurt us, if I would have pushed a couple laps earlier to catch the lead pack, we would have had to pass four guys. If I would have pushed a little bit sooner to do that, we would have used up too much fuel, maybe run out. If we wait till they go, we're going to have that same gap no matter what. Unless I got the most incredible restart in the world, passed 10 cars right away, that was what we were going to have to do today, accept a third-place finish and be happy with it.
We tried doing this at Loudon. Had a good car. Did the fuel mileage there, ran out way short. So this meant a lot to me to be able to save it and actually be able to make it to the end of this one.
Q. Can you talk about the balance that you've got to strike over the next six races?
REGAN SMITH: Well, from my team's standpoint, I don't think we're looking at the top 20 right now. We'd have to win out at this point to have a shot at getting back up there. Certainly we'd love to do that. The reality is, this is such a tough series, it's going to be really hard to do.
We're going to focus on winning races. If it puts us in position to get top fives, great. If we can sneak up there and maybe get top 20, and the right things play out, then cool. If not, we're working hard to make sure we can do this every week next year and this just isn't a thing we did a few times this year.
Q. Regan, you mentioned how thrilled you were that if you couldn't win it, that Paul won it. What do you think it means to his dad in particular to put so much into winning here?
REGAN SMITH: Well, Jeff can probably speak better to that than I can, being from Indiana, being up here as much as he was. I just know what it means to Paul. I know how hard he's worked. One of the really good close friends that I have on this circuit, always go to if I have a question or need something.
He always talks about coming up here. He always talks about how much he loves this place. I know if he had to highlight one race to get his first win, I'm sure he'll tell you in a minute he couldn't be happier.
It's cool. You only get one chance to get your first win. It's a special thing, especially when you do it here.
KERRY THARP: Jeff Gordon has joined us at the podium. Finished a strong runner-up today. Jeff has moved up to seventh in the points, with two victories on the season.
Jeff, you were coming like a locomotive at the end of that race. Talk about your effort today.
JEFF GORDON: It was awesome. What a fun race for us. From the time we got here, probably even prior to getting here, I felt really positive about the effort that was put into our racecar. The guys were really fired up about getting here. But you still never know until you get out there on the track.
The first couple laps on that track, it just had that feel, you know, it had a great feel. Struggled a little bit getting ready for qualifying, but qualified better than I thought we would.
When they dropped the green, I knew we had a car that could win this race. It was a lot of fun. Kasey Kahne looked to be one of the best. He had some issues. We got up there and were able to kind of control the race.
It was just a lot of fun. It's been a while since we had a car like that here at Indy. Just a flawless effort by the team. The pit stops were fantastic. I thought Alan called a great race. When we came off pit road the last time, we were able to get ahead of Harvick, I thought that was a huge moment for us. That put us in position to win.
I knew that shortly after that, there were some guys that were going to try to stretch it on fuel and all I could do is run as hard as I could to put pressure on them and hope that I got there in time.
We got there just a little bit short. But Paul did a great job saving fuel because when I got there, even Regan and other guys, they were still pretty much checking up when I got there. It was easy to get by them. But Paul had saved enough to where he could go back to a full pace. By that time, my car was just too tight behind him.
Back to what Regan said, you know, I don't know Paul as well as he does. But I was with him the other day. I thought it was pretty cool. We were talking about him coming here as a kid with his family I think from like, I don't know, late '80s or something all the way to 2000, some ridiculous thing where every year he was here for the 500, knowing what his dad has done here in IndyCars. I don't think there's anybody that could appreciate a win, even if it is his first win.
I think he's in awe right now. I went and saw him. His eyes, he's like a deer in headlights. I'm so happy for him, I think a lot of people are. It's one thing to get your first win here, but it's another when you can appreciate how special it is to win here. I think Paul certainly has that.
KERRY THARP: We'll continue with questions.
Q. Jeff, I guess second kind of sucks, but what does this weekend and effort today say about your team's championship drive?
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, it says a lot. Obviously we wanted to win this race, but we also wanted to make a statement. I think we certainly did that. You know, this team is for real. We showed that today. You always hear about people talking about, you know, the team that wins here at Indy, their chances for the championship.
While we didn't win, I think we definitely showed that we're a championship-caliber team. We've been knocking on the door, getting closer every single weekend, won a couple races. For me this is going to be a huge boost for this race team and hopefully a bit of a statement to the competition as well that we're serious about our efforts at a championship this year.
If we can run like we did today here at Indy, you know, I know we're capable of winning just about anyplace we go.
Q. Jeff, do you have any theory as to why out of the four major races, three have been won by first-time guys this year?
JEFF GORDON: Well, Daytona's different. The type of drafting that you do. So I don't know if you can necessarily -- you got to kind of put that in its own category.
But when Regan won at Darlington, I mean, that was a risky move that they made, kind of like what Paul did today. But he drove the wheels off that thing to keep Carl behind him. So you got to give him a lot of credit.
I'm not sure which other one? The 600?
Q. The 600.
JEFF GORDON: I don't even know who won the 600.
Q. Harvick won the 600.
JEFF GORDON: So three of the four. Got you. It was a good thought (laughter).
Q. Regan, you mentioned Paul being one of your closest friends out here. How did that develop?
REGAN SMITH: I think the same thing, we came into the circuit the same time, around each other a lot, a lot of different appearance, stuff like that. You start seeing guys more and more, get comfortable with them, just like that.
We're both kind of similar personalities, quiet, a little bit shy if you want to call it that, keep to ourselves a little bit.
But he's been knocking on the door for a while. Had some really strong racecars. Certainly happy for him.
Q. Jeff, you won the first Brickyard here. You know how you felt. Compare it with what you think he feels today.
JEFF GORDON: I think the comparison's probably very similar. I think, you know, it was a dream come true for me just to get a chance to race at Indy. That first event, you know, was unbelievable. I was definitely in shock that we won that race. That race changed my life forever, certainly my career has never been the same since.
This is not just a fluke. They took a big risk. But they had to beat a lot of other guys that were trying to save fuel. There at the end, you know, I couldn't have passed him.
Again, just because he's been here so much as a kid experiencing Indy, he knows how special it is to compete here, let alone win here. So I think the feelings are probably very similar. He probably has a greater appreciation for it than I did in '94, because while I was watching from a distance and my heroes were Indy 500 drivers, I wasn't in the garage like he was. So he could probably appreciate it even more.
Q. Jeff, you've won a couple times, basically locked into the Chase. In these next six races, where is your team's focus going to be? Business as usual, R&D?
JEFF GORDON: Man, we're going to try to put the same kind of effort we just did today and just keep building our team up to be able to be championship caliber when the Chase comes around. I think we're very close.
Alan and I, it took us a little while to get to know one another, how to communicate with one another, what I need in the car. He's been really giving me great stuff to drive. It's been a blast.
Today was just solid pit stops, no mistakes, a lot of confidence in his calls, in his adjustments. I thought today we were a complete team. We've got to continue to do that week in and week out. I think there's definitely more tracks that we can win at. But it's really about building ourselves up to be strong when the Chase comes around.
Q. Jeff, when is the last time you've been this happy to finish second?
JEFF GORDON: Well, this is Indy, you know. I guess I'm happy because we ran so good today. We haven't run this good in a while. I know what it means to run good here at Indy. This is a tough place. There's no coincidence that teams that have won here in the past several times have gone on to win the championship because it shows who has the complete package.
I think that we showed we got a great package. While we came up short, I guess too because I'm happy for Paul. If you're gonna get beat, it's pretty cool to get beat by somebody that can really appreciate this win.
I don't like finishing second. I was disappointed. When I came down the front straightaway, I was pretty upset. But that quickly turned into my thoughts about how great we ran today and how cool it was for Paul.
Q. Matt said he thought when you got around him as Burton was coming into the pits, that was probably the pass for the lead. Did you have that same thought?
JEFF GORDON: There was two big moments I thought that happened for us. That one, when we got by Matt. I was better than Matt, but I couldn't pass him. He was good enough to keep me behind him. If we didn't get in front of him, then he very easily could have won this race. So when I got by him there, you know, I thought that was big.
Then the next big moment was when we came off pit road. I thought this was where Alan was genius today. I don't know how it worked out. But when we came in for that last pit stop, we rolled off there and I could see him coming down the front straightaway, and I ran really hard through one and two on that access road to try to get ahead of him. I just squeaked ahead of him by the time we got to turn three and pulled away. That was Harvick and Kenseth.
Those two moments were key moments to put us in position to win. Had those guys had to come in, we had the position. We did everything we could to put ourselves there to win this race.
Q. How much more time do you think you needed to catch him?
JEFF GORDON: I'll be honest with you. You know, I used it all up getting to him. There were a couple cars that were saving fuel when I got to them. They didn't make it real easy on me, which you can't blame 'em. But that held me up a bit.
And then when I got to him, I got tight. He could run a good enough pace where even if I had gotten closer to him, I don't think I could have passed.
Paul was pretty good all day today actually. I ran with him earlier in the race. It was going to be tough to pass him then. There at the end, where I give him a lot of credit, he saved enough fuel to where at the end he went for it. The tires are not too burned off because he didn't push the car too hard. He saved enough fuel that he could run a good enough pace that I don't think I could have passed him.
I used it all up getting to him. But another lap, I was hoping he was going to run out (laughter). I was hoping it was going to be an easy pass.
Q. Regan, we know how you feel about Paul and the friendship you have. Now we know what Jeff thinks. Among other drivers, do you sense that a lot of them echo Jeff's feelings about Paul, that he has a lot of respect?
REGAN SMITH: Yeah, I think so. A lot of people know what the Menard's name has meant to racing, what the family meant to racing. Certainly I didn't come to this place as a kid and didn't have my roots around this track, and he did, like Jeff said.
The other thing is Menard has built a lot of engines and cars to bring to the 500 year after year. I think pretty much everything has been said. It's just really cool for him to do that deal, to win here.
Part of me's happy, part of me's mad. Maybe these two could have run into each other and then I could have won this thing. That's what I was hoping for. Afterwards I said, That's okay (laughter).
Q. Jeff, is there any master plan for the fueling system that you can come out with enough fuel to finish big races like this?
JEFF GORDON: Well, it seems to me like what a lot of guys are doing now to save fuel, used to be a big track like this, if you were one lap short, you better come in, you're not going to make it unless you get a bunch of cautions.
Now what's happening is guys have figured out how to stretch it and get incredible fuel mileage even under green by pushing on the clutch, shutting off the engine, doing a bunch of things that they can stretch it four and five laps now, even on a big track like this. Used to be impossible to save that amount of fuel. But these days guys are figuring it out.
That's about the only thing. There's not a whole lot you can do to the tank. There's not a lot you can do to conserve fuel with the carburetor. Little tiny things. But other than that, even just checking up early isn't going to save you a whole lot. You have to get the rpms down. It's something that a lot of teams have been working on. Things to in-car cameras, we've seen other guys, how they've done it, and now we work on it.
I will say, you know, I really enjoyed there at the end being in a position to not have to conserve. It was a lot of fun to run hard and try to chase these guys down, even though we came up short. It's the position everybody prefers to be in. Doesn't mean you're always going to win the race that way.
Q. Regan, after winning Darlington, everybody was saying that the wins may start to pile up for you. While wins haven't come, you've had four top 10s this year. Finishing third here is a big deal. Is this further validating your career and your team's ideology being based out of Denver and proving that model can work for you guys?
REGAN SMITH: I think we're going to continue to prove that that model can work. It's a model nobody else has tried in a long time. For the longest time, everybody thought you had to move to the Charlotte area to race. We're trying to dispel that theory
I think the times have allowed us to do that, technology has allowed us to do that. We can be on a live active database back to North Carolina and see different things going on from Denver also. Certainly with some of the teams having the troubles they've had in the past years, we've been able to get really good people to complement the people we already got in Denver.
Posted on: May 8, 2011 9:30 am
Posted by Pete Pistone
We have a first-time winner in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Regan Smith. He's joined by team general manager Joe Garone and crew chief Pete Rondeau. With the win tonight, he also qualifies for the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup All-Star Race. Congratulations to that.
REGAN SMITH: Thank you.
KERRY THARP: Great win out there tonight. Talk about it.
REGAN SMITH: We did think about the All-Star Race after the race on the cool-down lap saying, I can't believe we just won this race. I think I said something about the All-Star Race. I can't remember.
It was a good race for us. I'm happy to be in here and not be in here under qualifying terms because that's usually when I get to see anybody in here. First and foremost, this is a pleasant change for me.
The car was good all night. I don't think we made any big adjustments. There was a couple points where I was winding pretty hardcore. That's typical for me anywhere. Pete and the guys made some good calls. We got up to six at one point the old-fashioned way: driving up there. We had good pit stops. Those guys did a great job. The opportunity presented itself.
Pete and I were talking about it. The decision is his a hundred percent. The way our stuff works is whatever he tells me to do, I do. I did mention, I said, Man, I think this thing would be good with clean air. That's all he needed to hear to make the call to stay out. That won the race for us right there.
We were fortunate on the last restart. I spun the tires on the second-to-last restart. The tires hooked up good. When we cleared Carl going into one, I thought, That's good, at least we'll finish second in this thing, I won't have to worry about any of the other guys on fresh tire. When he didn't catch me at the white flag and I still had a car length gap at the white flag, I thought, I'm going to run another qualifying lap here, we might have a chance at this thing.
I hit the fence at turn two. How hard was it? I thought I hit it hard, anyways. Never checked it up. Sailed off into three. I had been on the bottom all night long. My game plan was to stick with the bottom. I figured if he passes me with his tires on the outside, that's all right. I sailed off in there, drove it deeper than I wanted to. I got tight in the middle. I saw he drove off pretty deep, which I expected him to do. He got tight at the same time. I don't know if the air off my car got him or what. He wasn't able to make the run and we won the Southern 500. That's pretty awesome.
KERRY THARP: Pete, talk about the decision and stay out there towards the end of the race.
PETE RONDEAU: It's one of them things you think about a lot, but then it's a split-second decision. Sometimes you make out well with it, sometimes you don't. I was leaning one way, as it was. I said, What the heck, we'll ask Regan where he's headed. He said we were both on the same page. All right, let's go for it. He's the one driving it. He wants some clean air, we'll give him some clean air. He willed it.
He did a great job all night right from the start. We started off, made a few adjustments. We'll tell him now we ended up right where we were at the start of the race.
REGAN SMITH: That's how it usually works (laughter).
KERRY THARP: Joe, talk about how meaningful this win is tonight, Colorado race team. Talk about what it means not only for your organization but for other organizations that might be similar to what you have.
JOE GARONE: Well, for our organization, obviously it means everything. We've been six years building this team and literally started from scratch. I can tell you a lot of people, and I can't say I wasn't with them when Barney Visser wanted it run out of Colorado, that we might just be crazy. It's been a long road.
After the second or third year we started realizing we can compete in Cup, we can do a good job, get ourselves in a position to win races. Tonight just solidifies all that hard work and shows the racing community that you can win races outside of the normal North Carolina area.
KERRY THARP: We'll take questions now for Joe, Pete or Regan.
Q. Regan, talk about your emotions as you took the checkered flag and the cool-down lap.
REGAN SMITH: There were a lot of emotions. I was trying to get them all out at that point so I didn't show it too much on TV there. But I couldn't help it. It's Mother's Day weekend. My mom is not here. She's in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. She left Thursday, about the same time I left to come down here, to help out with the recovery efforts and save some animals down there. She's down there doing that. She's always been there for all my wins, all my races, everything. She doesn't miss too many of them. To not have her here, that got me choked up a little. It is now, too.
Outside of that, there's been so many ups and downs for my career, so many points where you think, Man, what am I doing? What's the next move? I think it's obvious now the best thing that happened to me was the end of the '08 season I didn't have a drive, I didn't have a ride, got hooked up with Barney and Joe and Furniture Row Racing. There's a lot of times the guys could have got down on me last year, this year, some races this year, but everybody stuck behind me and has given me the support that I needed as a driver to keep my head on straight.
I'll be honest with you. When I walked to the car today, I literally thought we could win the race. I think that every week when we walk to the car. The difference was this week, we did.
It's very special. I couldn't think of a better way to do it with the things I've been through with a team out of Colorado. I'm pretty close to having a house bought out there. Solidifies my roots out there a little more.
Man, it's very special.
Q. Regan, when is the last time you won anything? I know this is your first NASCAR win.
REGAN SMITH: It's been a while (laughter).
Q. What series was it in? And can you further describe this journey in more detail, what a driver goes through when they're trying? It's like you were almost hitting your head against the wall. It's a single-car operation, at times a part-time deal.
REGAN SMITH: Yeah, certainly. Last major win I had was '08, a late model race up in Canada, the IWK 250, one of the bigger races they run. I made a comment earlier, this isn't a knock on Talladega at all, but I would trade all of them for one win in the Southern 500. This is so special. We were looking at the names and faces on the trophy. You think about it. My face is going to be right there next to these guys and it's going to be there forever. You can't change that. It certainly means a lot to me.
As for the highs and lows, you know, the year, '08, my rookie season, even though we won the Rookie-of-the-Year deal, it wasn't the type of year you want to have by any means. I've run, I don't know, a hundred-some races, you guys probably know better than I do, and haven't had a top five. Recently got my first top 10. To just kind of come out and end up with a win, it's a good way to get your first top five, I suppose.
We know we've got fast racecars and we felt like we had fast racecars and we put it together tonight basically. There was a lot of stuff we said we had to put together. The little stuff was good. Pit stops were good, adjustments were good, I was getting on and off pit road good. There were so many little things that can hamper a race.
Me personally, I understand that stuff better. Hopefully it helps us down the road.
The low point, you know, I can't say there's a low point. There's been a lot of times when I think, What if I don't get to race in another Cup race again? As a driver, you never know when your last race is going to be.
Last year I was thinking, Maybe they're going to fire me, I hope not. But who knows what is going to happen. When we had struggles at different points in the season, last year the lowest point was I broke my wrist at Sonoma and raced at Loudon with it broke completely, didn't have it fixed. I got out of the car, it hurt really bad, it was a horrible day. We were so far off the pace. Probably one of the worst races I personally ever have driven.
From that point on, we started rebounding again. Ever since the Chicago race, even though some of the finishes don't show it, we've been running way more competitive. It's just been uphill from there, or downhill, I don't know how you look at it.
Q. (No microphone.)
REGAN SMITH: I have. I didn't get too many words out of her but, I love you, boohoo, lots of tears and crying. She was very excited. If I know her, she's going to enjoy a Bacardi and diet Coke tonight. If it's in a tent, pickup truck, hotel. This is funny. I believe she was staying with Bonnie Allison down there. Don't quote me on that, but I believe that's where she was staying most of the time when she was down there. I'm sure she's celebrating.
Q. In a year where Trevor Bayne won the Daytona 500, people are going to find this a Cinderella victory. Talk about that coming.
REGAN SMITH: Yeah, no, you know what, I'm fine with that. Ryan grabbed me and said, You're 500-to-1 odds in Vegas. Hopefully somebody made some money tonight (laughter).
I watched Trevor win that race. We had a strong racecar. Quite honestly, I felt like we could have won the 500 just as easily. You're happy for Trevor. It was so cool to see. There's a part of you that thinks, That could have been us. That's a big race. We come to the next biggest race, the Southern 500. You have the Daytona 500, the Southern 500, the Coke 600, and the Brickyard. Those are the four. To come here and beat a guy like Carl Edwards. It's incredible. Cinderella story. Whatever is wrote about it, I'm perfectly fine with it. I don't care, because we still get a trophy
Q. It's your first win, but not the first time you've taken the checkered flag in Cup. Do you feel this is vindication for what happened at Talladega? Did you feel like you were going to get that back eventually?
REGAN SMITH: You know what, I'll be honest with you, I didn't know if I was ever going to get it back. To get it back at Darlington, absolutely it's vindication. Winning here to me means more to me than that win could have ever meant. With this team, with the hard work, racing out of Colorado, the things that have gone on, everybody said for how long, You can't race outside of Charlotte, the 20-mile radius where all the teams are, you can't do it. We've been doing it every week.
We've been doing it good for a while, but now everybody is going to notice how good we're doing it. I don't think I'll go to bed tonight thinking about Talladega, that's for sure (laughter).
Q. Regan, do you dare allow yourself to think, Chase wild card is on the table now? Do you think that far ahead?
REGAN SMITH: We've been thinking about that for three or four weeks now, since we dug the hole in points, we've had that talk already. We need to take chances like we did tonight and try to sneak some wins out. Our main focus was, Let's try and sneak as many wins as we can and get back in the 20 points. We had a big hole to dig out of. That's going to be our goal. We get another win, get back into the top 20, you could make the Chase and use that system to your advantage.
I think that's something you don't want to be in the position where you have to use that system to your advantage, you just want to be in the top 10. But it's there. Since we've had the bad luck we had at the start of the year, we're going to try and use it.
Q. Joe, have you talked to Barney yet? I want to know what his feeling is. So many times it was, We're going to cut back to this, then go back up. The fact he believed in all you guys. And, Pete, what kind of vindication is this for the guy that was known as Dale Jr.'s other crew chief?
JOE GARONE: I did talk to Barney. Kind of just a quick funny story. Last call, when we decided to stay out, I sent a quick text to him. Normally he's with us. This was just a disclaimer for Pete. I asked him what he would do. He said, Stay out. So I figured if it went bad, I could always say, It was Barney's decision, so Pete was covered (smiling).
This is a big deal for Barney. Not just for Barney, but Furniture Row Companies, which consists of Denver Mattress, Sofa Mart, Bedroom Expressions and Oak Express. For standing behind the team, it's been a long road.
Everyone knows how tough this sport is at the Cup level. They've gone over the highs and the lows and just stuck behind us. Just like Regan was staying about what we've done with him, our owner, Barney, has done with us.
This is just a great time for him, really excited for him and the whole company.
PETE RONDEAU: I don't have any vindication from that few years back. I guess a lot of things go around, some come around. This just came around. I'm Regan Smith's crew chief now, so that part there has gone by.
Q. Regan, where would you have put Darlington on the list of places where you thought you would get your first win?
REGAN SMITH: Well, places where I would like to get my first win, probably near the top, the top two or three for sure. Of places where I thought I would get my first win, it was probably at the bottom because it's such a tough racetrack.
We talked before the race. We had a game plan. It was to keep the right side clean. If it meant racing at 80% until the end of the race, the last 25, 50 laps, whatever it was, that's what we needed to do. And it worked. I kept the right side clean all night long. I kept coming up on cars, I would look at them, see their right side was tore off. That's one we'd be able to get.
The only one that went past me that his right side was obliterated was Kyle Busch, and that's normal for Kyle Busch at this racetrack. He's something else.
But, you know, it's very special. Any win is special. This one is even more special. To get the first one here, I think they were giving me the stats, I think they said there's only been six first-time winners here, and the last one was '88. It's certainly a big deal.
It's like I said earlier, you walk out to the car believing you're going to win the race, but sometimes you think, If we get a top 10, too, that's what we need to survive. I think this is a race we're capable of winning, but let's survive. We survived and we won.
Q. Regan, the research is several years old, but I think it's still valid. Darlington is far beyond any other track in terms of the exclusivity of its winners. The only drivers that have ever won here and not won a number of other races is Larry Frank in '62 and Lake Speed in '88. From understanding this track, you must understand the difficulty of it. I just wondered if you had a chance to think much about that?
REGAN SMITH: I certainly thought about it. I thought about it when I was standing in Victory Lane and reading the trophy. Pete and I, all of us, were sitting there looking at the trophy thinking, Man, this is special. The next step for us as a team is to get that second win. Obviously now we've gotten the taste of how good this feels, you don't ever want to lose that taste.
The next step is to get the second win and keep working hard. I certainly don't want to go anywhere near the list of guys that this is their only win.
We're going to work just as hard to get the next one as we have to get this one, see where that takes us.
Q. Are you still working with Josh at all? He's back at school. Have you been in contact?
REGAN SMITH: I haven't talked to him yet. I haven't gotten to my phone yet to be honest with you. I'm sure there's a lot of text messages I'm going to have to reply to and calls I have to make back. I'm sure Josh is one of them.
I talked to him Friday morning. Every Friday morning before I go on the racetrack, we look over data and talk to him. He's certainly been a big help to me from the standpoint of showing me some stuff that I can do to help out the guys when I'm giving them feedback and information.
It's something that we did last year and it worked last year at the end of the year. We said, Let's stick with it this year. I think it's worked.
There's been a lot of times we pulled out the data sheets and said, That point there is where the car is doing something. It helps Pete and Cole to do the right things to the racecars. I'm sure I'll be talking to him later at some point tonight.
Q. On the last restart, Brad Keselowski said he was pushing you from behind. Did that help your tires hook up to get you out in front of Carl? It seemed like almost the entire night you were pretty well away from the wall going through three and four. Did you specifically set your car up to keep it away from that wall?
REGAN SMITH: We did. I've watched Kyle race here and win here with the right side almost all tore off. I wasn't saying that in a bad way.
Brad did give me a shove, probably three-quarters of the way down the front straightaway. It was just enough of a boost to get me that next little step past Carl to where I could run my line through one and two. If I couldn't have done that, I don't think we could have had the momentum to win. So Brad certainly helped me right there. He kind of preoccupied Carl for that corner and it gave me those two car lengths to stretch it out.
He's a guy that has had his first win, he knows how special it feels, Nationwide races, too. He's had that first Cup win. You really can't describe it. I didn't know how to do the burnouts. I said, I heard you're supposed to crank a lot of front brake to it. I hope it looked okay. I turned around and wanted to salute the fans because they're the reason we do this.
Q. Pete, on the last restart you walked him through on the radio the last two laps. Were you as nervous as he was? What were you thinking?
PETE RONDEAU: I wasn't too nervous with him doing it. Generally you get a guy with the drive and the desire to do this, they get to the front, they're at the front even if they can just sniff it, they're going to drive the wheels off of it. Obviously, you can see that.
I didn't see what he did on the backstretch until I was in Victory Lane. They showed me the tape of him coming off of turn two jacked up, out of shape.
REGAN SMITH: Probably good you didn't see it (laughter).
PETE RONDEAU: No, I didn't get nervous about it. Regan, he knows what he's doing there. We just let him do his thing.
Q. Joe, there's a lot of people who can celebrate with this victory. You have a pit crew from Stewart Haas Racing, you have chassis from Richard Childress, ECR engines. Is there a better example of true teamwork than this victory tonight? Would you say this would classify as a point that the little guy can still win?
JOE GARONE: Well, I think it does classify that. It is part of the structure for how the little guy does business in Cup. You need partners. You need to have those relationships not just in place, but they have to be good relationships. I can't even express how good our relationship is with RCR, how well they work with us, the information flow between us. It's second to none.
Stewart/Haas, this is new for us this year with them. I can tell you the pit stops were rocky in the beginning. They have flat gone to work with Pete and the guys. Bobby Hutchens is over there all the time sweating bullets when the stops aren't good. I mean, it is good.
Remember when we used to race and run late models on Saturday night, somebody would brake, all the guys would be over there trying to help you, if you went and beat them, you're in a fistfight afterwards. That's what it's like for us. Kind of cool to have that support from other racing teams.
Q. Joe, what are the numbers for the little guy? How many overall employees do you have? How many are based in Colorado? Do you have any based in Charlotte?
JOE GARONE: We have 64 employees total. The pit crew is based in Colorado, so there's six with an additional two that handle some of the logistics. One of them is actually our spotter, Clayton Hughes, so he still lives in North Carolina.
Q. Do you have a satellite thing at all in Charlotte?
JOE GARONE: We don't have a satellite shop. We have a weigh station, I guess you'd call it, which is Clayton's garage at his house. We have a tractor-trailer that does a material run for furniture back to North Carolina every week. What we did is we took the back half of that and built some special containers. That's how we transport our engines and transmissions back and forth. They make a stop at Clayton's. They unload them and load them. That's kind of how we do it.
Q. Regan, as good as this feels right now, you probably are aware of some of the stuff that went on behind you in the aftermath. When the series moves on to Dover and people are talking about Harvick and Busch, Montoya, Newman, is any of that going to diminish what happened here tonight.
REGAN SMITH: I can honestly tell you I don't have an idea what happened behind me, except Carl Edwards didn't pass me, some of the other details on the restart with Brad and stuff like that, I have no clue what happened in the race other than us winning. You know what, if that's what's talked about next week, so be it. I don't care. It's not going to take away from the feeling I've got right now.
Quite honestly, it hasn't sunk in, but I think it will sink in tomorrow. I'm not going to go to bed tonight because there's no chance I'll sleep tonight.
I think the main thing that I'm proud of is what we've done with this team from Colorado. You know, that's the big take-away I get from it. There's been so much work. Like I said, there's been a lot of ups and downs. You certainly have to enjoy the ups when you get them. This is one of them. I'm smart enough to know to enjoy it.
Q. Joe, are you still with Hendrick cars or was that part of the technical support switch-over with Childress?
JOE GARONE: We're with Richard Childress racecars. What we do, to be clear, we buy our chassis from Childress and we bring them -- after they're inspected at the R&D center, we bring them to Colorado, we do all the work. They're assembled out there, the bodies are built out there. We have our own seven-post machine. We do all our testing there, research and development. There's some projects we work together with them on in the wind tunnel where we share engineering services.
Our engine program switched from Hendrick to ECR this year. That put us on the loop to put us on the same platform to understand the racecar from simulation and other areas.
Q. Regan, something else to think about. Aside from Trevor Bayne, you and Jeff Gordon are the only two guys outside the top 10 in points that have a win. If you can get into the top 20, maybe a wildcard into the Chase. Is that going to affect the way you race the rest of the regular season at all?
REGAN SMITH: I don't know that it will affect it. That's our goal anyways before this happened. Absolutely, yeah, we got to get back to the top 20. We're going to have to work hard to do that.
I personally think it's going to take two wins at least to get in based on that system, based on the system the way it is right now. But this is all new to everybody. You never know. It might not take two wins to do that. It might only take one, so we're certainly going to have to focus on that. At the same time we're going to focus on getting another win and taking chances to make that happen. That's all there is to it basically.
I do have to say something else. I saw something that Darrell Waltrip wrote the other day. He picked us and Menard as possible first-time winners this year. Paul is one of my best friends in the garage area. I thought, Well, that was nice of him to pick us. We've been qualifying real good, but not racing that good. Looks like it was a good pick (laughter).
Q. I wanted to ask you about how you got through some of those lower points. I don't know if it's the racer's mentality that you don't know any better and you keep pushing forward or you think this day is going to come. How did you fight through that and get to this point?
REGAN SMITH: I'm not going to lie, there has been, my fiancée over in the corner can vouch for this, there's been some sleepless nights. I've laid there, I can't fall asleep. Might be after a race. I did this wrong, I did that wrong. I'm my own worst critic. I put everything on my shoulders personally. Joe can vouch for that. There's times I'll beat myself down just to pick myself back up, if that sounds right, to feel better about things on Monday or Tuesday after a race.
I don't know. You're probably right in saying it's a racer's mentality. We all do this because we believe in ourselves and because we believe we can win races, we're good racecar drivers. It's not just when you get to this level. It goes all the way back to when you're racing Saturday nights, you're trying to get an opportunity to get your first Truck start or first Nationwide start. I remember sending out, you know, hundreds of proposals and things like that. I thought, Man, these are cheesy looking. Why am I sending them out? I'm going to send them out anyway.
I can't begin to say how many people have helped me along the way. To sit here and thank them all, you can't do it, you'd miss somebody. They all know who they are. You do that stuff, you get doors slammed in your face. When I was running Pro Cup, family-owned team, back in the day. Money was tight. You fight and feud sometimes with your family because of it, different things like, that you have different ideas than they do maybe about stuff. It's tough. It's like that for so many people out there right now that are racing tonight, Saturday night. It's not just at this level. It goes all the way back to that level.
You just got to keep digging and keep your head down. There's people in this garage area, I can pretty much tell you, you can walk up to them and say, Remember when Regan used to call you when he was 16 or 17 years old? Your secretary would say, Regan Smith is on the phone again. He would say, God, tell him I'm not here. I guess the more doors get slammed in your face, the thicker your skin is, the more tough times you have the thicker your skin is.
Q. (Question regarding the trophy.)
REGAN SMITH: It's going to sit where I have to walk past it every time I get up in the morning. I can tell you that. It's going to go someplace where I don't miss it at all. Maybe on the center of the coffee table in the living room. I don't know for now.
I heard Tony Stewart made the comment, Make sure you take the actual Victory Lane trophy home. I asked them if I could take that one home. We'll see how that works out for me.
KERRY THARP: Regan, Pete, Joe, congratulations. Great win tonight. Terrific story. Wish you all the best the rest of the season.
REGAN SMITH: Thank you. Thanks for staying so late. Really appreciate that. We're really excited, so thank you.
Posted on: May 8, 2011 1:33 am
Edited on: May 8, 2011 8:26 am
By Pete Pistone
Showtime Southern 500 Recap
They’ve been racing at Darlington Raceway since 1950. But Saturday night’s Showtime Southern 500 will go down as one of the best in the history of the legendary South Carolina track.
While the race clocked in at just over four hours and included some long stretches of strung out racing around the treacherous 1.366-mile track, the big finish was worth the wait.
Pit road drama, tire strategy, high emotions, fights and an upset winner were all neatly wrapped up in the final stages of Saturday night’s memorable race.
But while the water cooler talk Monday will surely be about the on track and post race scuffle between Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick, the Cinderella story of Regan Smith’s win should be the center of attention.
Somehow in this day and age of multi-car super teams and power houses like Hendrick, RCR, Joe Gibbs Racing and Roush dominating the Sprint Cup Series, a little one car team headquartered in Denver, Colorado won one of the sport’s most prestigious races.
Although the Furniture Row team does have an alliance with the Childress organization it is still very much a David battling against a sport filled with Goliaths.
“I don't think anybody realizes how much work has gone into getting this program where it is out of Colorado,” said Smith basking in the glory of his unlikely victory. “(Team presidents) Joe Garone, Barney Visser , all of them. Barney has put a huge, huge investment into NASCAR into this team. I can't be more proud to be driving it.”
Smith was almost here before when an apparent win at Talladega was taken away when NASCAR ruled he had dipped below the yellow out of bounds line and the victory was given to Tony Stewart.
But he doesn’t look at his accomplishment Saturday night as any kind of vindication. According to Smith winning at Darlington is just better.
“It feels a lot different at the end of the day when you say 'Hey, I won a race at Darlington,'” he said. “The names that have won here...the Pearsons, Yarboroughs and on and on, you name it. I was sitting behind some of those guys today and I was thinking 'Man, these guys are pretty awesome. They are legendary'. I don't know if my name deserves to be next to them, but after tonight, maybe it does."
Smith’s performance showed he most definitely belongs on the list of legends who have won at NASCAR’s top level.
It might take a little time for the young driver to believe it but it has every right to sink in even if it doesn’t happen for a while.
“We've got a neat trophy now,” he said. “Legends win this race, I'm not supposed to win this race. I've never even had a top five. I guess that shows in this series, anybody can win on any given Sunday."
Or Saturday night.
Finally something for the Penske Racing to feel good about on the Sprint Cup Series side of the house. While the defending Nationwide Series champion has been okay on the Junior Circuit, he’s struggled big time in the Miller Lite Dodge until Saturday night. A decision to stay out and not pit for tires at the end of the race proved to be a wise one and Keselowski came home third.
Showed that his solid run last week in Richmond was not a fluke with a pole-winning performance to start the weekend and an effort that nearly netted him his first win of 2011. Kahne has to be considered a candidate for the Chase this year at least as a Wild Card and looks like he’ll be in the mix for wins in the coming months as he helps showcase the Team Red Bull ride for 2010.
Martin Truex Jr.
Things looked bleak for Truex when he spun trying to come into the pits, an embarrassing move in light of his radio blow up last weekend that caused a shake up on the No. 56 team’s pit road personnel. But he recovered nicely and drove a very fast race car back to the front half of the field to score a very respectable tenth place finish.
Any memory of last year’s stellar run to close the season has been forgotten by the seemingly constant struggles of 2011. Logano got tapped and spun into the inside pit wall to ruin his night and hand him yet another disappointing finish and a 35th to show for his effort.
The veteran can share a lot of what Logano is going through with a tough opening ten races of 2011 as well. This time it was an overheating issue that cooked Burton’s engine and knocked him out with a dismal 33rd place finish.
Don’t usually see the five-time champion listed in this category but a painful night that was probably worse than the 15th place finish Johnson earned. Got spun out early after contact from Juan Pablo Montoya only to work his way back to the lead lap and get penalized late in the race for a missing lug nut after a trip to pit road. The radio communication between Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus was especially chippy Saturday night with all the frustration.
(Choice comments and communications from drivers and crew chiefs)
“Sorry, I locked the front tires. He braked really early, and I locked the front trying to avoid him. Did he hit anything?" – Juan Pablo Montoya asking about Jimmie Johnson
"That boy (Montoya) can't stay away from controversy, can he?" – Tony Stewart
"It's a big old pile of @#%^. Who was that? Damn." – Dale Earnhardt Jr. surveying the damage from Brian Vickers’ car
“I'm gonna have to turn my radio off now" – a frustrated Kurt Busch
“Just can't wait to get out of here. Nature of the beast, there's no room to race at this place.” – Clint Bowyer
On a scale of one to five "Pistone Pistons" I’ll give Saturday night’s Showtime Southern 500 a four. A 500-mile race at Darlington Raceway is a very long proposition and Saturday’s race as expected had long stretches of tedium. But like so many other races this year the best was yet to come and the closing laps provided enough mayhem, drama and high emotion for a month’s worth of racing. Tempers flared and a surprise winner emerged to make the 2011 edition of the Southern 500 one of the best in the storied track’s history.
DOWN THE ROAD
A week off from night racing and a Sunday afternoon trip to Dover International Speedway is next up for the Sprint Cup Series. “The Monster Mile” usually provides one of the season’s most grueling challenges and the one-mile concrete track will most likely live up to its name and make the garage area a busy place.
Posted on: March 30, 2011 5:52 pm
Edited on: March 30, 2011 5:53 pm
Posted by Pete Pistone
Regan Smith has gotten off to a good start for the upstart Furniture Row Racing team in 2011. However Wednesday the team hit a bit of a speed bump.
NASCAR fined Smith’s crew chief Pete Rondeau for violating a rule in last week’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway.
Rondeau was been fined $25,000 by officials for improperly attached weight and actions detrimental to stock-car racing. NASCAR stated the violation took place during Friday’s practice session at ACS.
Fortunately for Smith, who is 30th in the Sprint Cup Series point standings after five races, there was no point penalty attached to the infraction.
Posted on: August 26, 2010 11:49 am
Regan Smith has signed up for two more years with Furniture Row Racing.
Smith was the 2008 Sprint Cup rookie of the year -- beating out Sam Hornish Jr. -- when he drove the 01 car for Dale Earnhardt Inc. While he finished 34th in points that season, he became the first driver in Cup history to finish every race entered in his rookie season.
When DEI merged with Chip Ganassi Racing, Smith was the odd man out and he hooked up with Furniture Row for a part-time gig in 2009. Furniture Row expanded its schedule in 2010 and Smith has held his own. He has qualified for all 24 races races and is currently 30th in points.
His best finish this season is 14th (Atlanta, March).
I think this is a good move for Furniture Row. Smith, 26, is a good young driver, who generally stays out of trouble on the track, keeping the need for repairs to a minimum.
-- Brian De Los Santos
Press release follows:
DENVER, Colo. (Aug. 26, 2010) -- Furniture Row Racing announced today that Regan Smith has signed a contract extension through the 2012 season to drive the team's No. 78 Chevrolet in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Smith, the 2008 Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year, is currently in his second season driving for the Colorado-based Furniture Row Racing team. Last year he competed on a part-time basis, entering 20 races. The 26-year-old native of central New York is running a full schedule this season and will do the same in 2011 and 2012.
"Regan is a young, talented driver with an outstanding future," said Joe Garone, Furniture Row Racing general manager. "He has done a great job as our athlete and also as a spokesperson for our organization. The contract extension does indeed express a serious commitment by both the race team and driver."
Garone added, "We have a team of proven employees, state-of-the-art equipment and dedicated partners. We are producing increasingly positive performances and strongly feel that we're on the right path to become a contending team."
Smith, who has competed in 83 career Cup races since his debut in March 2007 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, also feels the energy and spirit of Furniture Row Racing's commitment.
"I am both happy and humbled about the contract extension," said Smith. "Furniture Row Racing is a team on the move. I feel we've made some big gains this season and we are all encouraged about the future. I really admire the behind-the-scenes work ethic and commitment of each and every member of this team. They want to win as bad as I do and I am proud to be their driver."
Along with his 83 career Sprint Cup starts, Smith has also competed in 102 Nationwide Series races and 23 Camping World Truck Series races. His first NASCAR start was in the truck series -- Sept. 21, 2002 -- at South Boston Speedway in South Boston, Va.