Smith, Furniture Row Racing Show Mettle in California Cup Race
FONTANA, Calif. (Feb. 21, 2010) -- A solid performance by Regan Smith and the Furniture Row Racing team resulted in a 19th-place finish in Sunday's Auto Club 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup race in Southern California.
"It could've, and should've been better," said Smith as he was leaving Auto Club Speedway. "We were running legitimately in the top-10 until I messed up on pit road on the last stop (slid through pit box). That really hurt us -- it's on me."
Ryan Coniam, Furniture Row crew chief, successfully played the rain strategy which vaulted Smith's No. 78 Chevy into the top-10 a few laps after the race was restarted on Lap 200 of 250. Smith stayed in the top 10 and was in seventh place when the final caution came out due to a frontstretch spinout by Brad Keselowksi on Lap 225.
As Smith came down pit road to take four fresh tires and fuel, the front-end of his No. 78 Chevy slipped through the pit box and needed to be backed up before the over-the-wall crew could go to work.
"No question, that cost us track position," noted Smith. "We also took four tires while some other teams took two. Once you lose track position in dirty air it's tough to make up ground. The car also got a little tight at the end which added to the problem."
Smith drove hard as the race was winding down and passed Jeff Gordon with three laps remaining to take over 19th place.
"Forget what happened at the end -- Regan did an incredible job today -- he can sure drive a racecar, and I am glad he is on our team," said Coniam. "We had a good day and showed that we have potential. We have a lot things going on, and it's only going to get better. This entire Furniture Row team is excited about the future."
Smith, who qualified 22nd, ran patiently in the low to mid 20s until making a move with approximately 60 laps remaining at the 2-mile oval.
"We had a balance issue early -- the car was tight and plowing through the corners," explained Smith. "Ryan (Coniam) made some good calls and the car kept on getting better. Running in the top-10 was a huge confidence builder. When you see the 48 car and running with him (Jimmie Johnson), it makes you feel like you belong there and the team believes what they're doing is right. We needed a respectable run after getting collected in an accident in Daytona. And we got it. Overall, not a bad day for the 78 team."
The race winner was Jimmie Johnson. Rounding out the top-10 in order were: Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton, Mark Martin and Joey Logano.
The next race for the Sprint Cup circuit and the Furniture Row team will be Sunday (Feb. 28) at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.