Smith, Furniture Row Racing Qualifiy for Daytona 500 Berth
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 12, 2009) -- It was only good news for Regan Smith on Thursday at Daytona International Speedway. The Furniture Row Racing driver qualified for a berth in Sunday's running of the Daytona 500.
"A huge weight has just been lifted off my shoulders," said Smith, after he was assured of a starting spot in the 500 before he even strapped himself into the No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet Impala SS for the second Gatorade Duel 150-mile qualifying race.
In the complicated qualifying format, Smith was automatically seeded in the 500 after Tony Stewart finished second in the first 150-miler. Smith's berth was based on his qualifying speed during Sunday's Pole Day qualifying.
"I don't think I ever cheered for Tony as much as I did today," offered Smith, the 2008 Rookie of the Year. "We were watching the race in the hauler and kept on saying 'Go Tony Go'."
Smith started seventh and finished 16th in the second qualifier. He will start 42nd in the 500.
"I'm just thrilled to be starting -- there were 13 cars that packed up and went home today," noted Smith, who will be making his second Daytona 500 start. "It's a long race on Sunday and the key is to stay in the draft and avoid the wrecks. We have a few tweaks to make on the Furniture Row Chevy in the final two practice sessions before the 500. I am pumped and my gut says we're going to be good on Sunday."
In his last Sprint Cup superspeedway start, Smith, 25, appeared to have won the October race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. He passed Stewart on the final lap and led the field to the checkered flag. But shortly after the race, NASCAR ruled that Smith passed Stewart below the out-of-bounds yellow line.
"I like the big tracks and can't wait to get at it on Sunday," said Smith. "Jay (Guy, crew chief) and all of the Furniture Row crew have done a great job. It's going to be fun."