Solid Start, Fondness for Bristol Track Put Smith in Upbeat Mood
DENVER, Colo. (March 17, 2010) -- With the first four Sprint Cup races completed, which included a superspeedway and three intermediate tracks, Regan Smith is anxiously looking forward to the next phase of the schedule -- the short track portion of the 36-event slate.
The first of the back-to-back short track races will be Sunday -- the Food City 500 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. The following week the circuit will be at another half-mile oval at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.
"We all grew up racing on short tracks and this is what we know best," offered Smith, driver of the No. 78 Chevrolet for Furniture Row Racing. "So when Bristol is the next race, the excitement barometer hits a new high. How can you not feel the energy at Bristol with 160,000 rabid fans? It definitely is a special place, and for me it's even more special because this is the track of my first Cup race."
Smith fondly recalls his debut Cup race -- March 25, 2007 at Bristol's .533-mile high-banked oval.
"I was co-driving the 01 Chevrolet with Mark Martin for Ginn Racing," said Smith. "Mark drove the first four races and was leading in driver points. Then they turn over the car to a bare-bone rookie at one of the toughest tracks on the circuit. On the outside I tried hard to act cool and to show that this was no big deal. But on the inside, I was nervous, knowing a lot of eyes were going to be on me."
It didn't take long for Smith to show his talent potential. He qualified 12th for his first Cup race and finished 25th.
"I didn't put the car in the wall and I finished the race," noted Smith. "I wasn't really sure how I did, but before I left the Bristol track I got a call from Mark (Martin) and he had only good things to say. That made me feel a lot better."
Three years later, Smith continues to feel good as he readies to enter his fifth career Cup race at Bristol. He is currently positioned 26th in the driver point standings, despite an early accident and a 39th-place finish in the Daytona 500 season opener. His finishes at the last three races were: 19th (California), 21st (Las Vegas) and 14th (Atlanta).
"We're bringing the Las Vegas car to Bristol and I look for Regan to have another strong effort for Furniture Row Racing," said crew chief Ryan Coniam, a former team engineer and sprint car racer. "We have a plan, but we also leave the door open for an audible or two, if necessary. We're jelling as a team, and we all feel that it's going to get better. We know there will be a bump or two along the way, but that's okay -- we're always ready to attack adversity."