Smith, Furniture Row Racing Banking on Superspeedway History
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 4, 2009) -- Though he’s at the top of the enthusiasm meter scale, Regan Smith admits that he is losing some sleep as he prepares for his debut in the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet.
The 2008 Raybestos Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year is one many drivers vying for a starting position in NASCAR's season opener -- the Daytona 500 on Feb. 15.
Being out of the top 35 in team owner points, Smith must either secure a starting spot in Sunday's (Feb. 8) Pole Day at Daytona International Speedway or race his way into the 500 field during next Thursday's (Feb. 12) Gatorade qualifying race.
As Daytona Speedweeks approaches, there were 53 entries, meaning that 18 drivers will battle for the eight non-guaranteed starting positions.
"I don't care how we get into the big show, just so we get in," offered Smith, who has 41 career Cup starts. "There's a lot pressure to make the biggest race of the year. But the good news is that the Furniture Row Chevy Impala SS is powered by Hendrick engines and the team has a strong history at superspeedways. When I wake up at night, I think of our positives and then go back to sleep."
Crew chief Jay Guy would be thrilled to duplicate last year's Furniture Row Racing superspeedway performances. The No. 78 team was third fastest in the Daytona 500 Pole Day, sat on the pole at the April Talladega race, qualified fourth at the Daytona summer race and seventh at the fall Talladega event.
"We always feel upbeat about our superspeedway program and our Hendrick engines," said Guy. "But without preseason testing at Daytona and not seeing what the competition has, you just don't know."
Smith, 25, also has a successful superspeedway history during his brief Sprint Cup career. He qualified in the top 10 in his last two superspeedway appearances -- eighth at the July Daytona race and fourth at Talladega in October.
"The Daytona 500 qualifying system can be confusing, but we know that if we can be in the top three among the go-or-go-home teams on Pole Day, we'll be locked in," explained Smith. "I think we have a good shot at that -- it would be a huge load off our shoulders. But if we don't get in on Pole Day, we still have the (Gatorade) race."
The Furniture Row team is scheduled to run 12 Cup races in 2009 in which four will be superspeedway events. The team's next race after Daytona will be at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (March 1).