Performance Better Than Result for Smith at Darlington

DARLINGTON, S.C. (May 8, 2010) -- Regan Smith and the Furniture Row Racing team had mixed feelings with their 17th-place finish in Saturday night's SHOWTIME Southern 500 Sprint Cup race at Darlington Raceway.

Smith's No. 78 Chevrolet ran solidly in the top-15 for the majority of the race and it appeared that a top-10 was in sight for the Denver, Colo.-based team as the 367-lap was winding down at the 1.366-mile oval. But on the final restart with 18 laps to go and running in 14th-place Smith got unlucky as he got boxed in with the heavy traffic and slid back three positions.

"We had an awesome car tonight -- much better than a 17th-place finish," said Smith, who was sandwiched in between Mark Martin (16) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (18th) at the checkered flag. "The Furniture Row team did a great job with this RCR-built car -- it was fast in practice on Friday and continued to be fast in the race. The guys on pit road also did a great job. This could be the race that we look back on and say, 'Darlington was the turning point of season.' " 

Though Smith started 32nd he came out of the gate strong as he patiently drove his Chevy through traffic and away from the infamous Darlington wall that took a beating throughout the night as cars were constantly scraping the concrete barrier.

"Darlington has a mean reputation, but as I have said many times, it's also a fun track to race on," stated Smith. "Everything was clicking tonight except after that final restart where it got pretty crowded out there. We had the juice to possibly hit a top-10 tonight, but considering what we've been through the performance was definitely a great morale boost to the team."

The 17th-place result was the best ending for the Furniture Row team since finishing 14th in Atlanta in early March.

"We're down a little because of the finishing position, but there's also a positive feeling due to our solid performance tonight," said No. 78 crew chief Ryan Coniam. "We had a good set up in the car, strong pit stops and a great driving effort by Regan. We are encouraged with this weekend's performance, but on the other hand, we all feel that we should have had a better result."

Smith gained two spots in the driver standings and currently sits in 31st place. The team is also 31st in owner points.

Darlington's race winner was Denny Hamlin, who also won Friday night's NASCAR Nationwide Series race. Rounding out the top-five in the Cup race were: Jamie McMurray, Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon and Juan Pablo Montoya.

There were 11 cautions in the race for 56 laps and 20 lead changes among 11 drivers.

The next stop for the Sprint Cup Series will be Sunday (May 16) at Dover (Del.) International Speedway.