Smith Returns to Road Racing After Three-Year Absence
DENVER, Colo. (June 16, 2010) -- In a few days, Regan Smith will do something he hasn't done in nearly three years. He will get to make right-hand turns in a NASCAR race.
Sunday's event at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. will be Smith's third career Sprint Cup road race and his first since August 2007 when he competed at NASCAR's other road racing venue -- Watkins Glen International in upstate New York. Outside of that Watkins Glen race, his only other Cup road race was at Infineon in June 2007.
Smith says he has some mixed feelings about taking his driving talents to Infineon Raceway's tight and complex 10-turn, 1.99 mile road circuit, which has seven right-hand and three left-hand turns.
"The little amount of road racing that I have been able to do has been both fun and frustrating," offered a candid Smith. "I remember when regular Cup drivers would not have many kind words to say about the two road races each year. But the more they raced on the road circuits, the better they liked it, and the better they drove. Right now, I am some place in the middle. I like the challenge of the road races -- I grew up karting. But in reality I do lack seat time at the Cup level."
In Smith's last Cup road race (Watkins Glen 2007) -- he posted an impressive qualifying lap by recording the 10th fastest speed. He finished the race 37th with a damaged race car. In his debut Cup road race -- June 2007 at Infineon -- he qualified 26th and finished 30th.
To reacquaint himself with the demanding twist and turns of Infineon Raceway, Smith spent a day at the track back in April testing a late model stock car and getting road course driving tips from veteran instructor Chris Cook.
"That was a productive session I had with Chris Cook," stated Smith. "I needed to refresh my memory about Infineon because there are so many nuances to the different corners. I really don't know what to expect this weekend. We've had some good runs lately and I am confident that we'll have a dialed-in driver and a dialed-in Furniture Row Chevrolet."
Before last week's race in Michigan, Smith scored three top 20s in the previous four races. He was on his way to another top-20 finish in Michigan but an early accident curtailed his performance for the remainder of the race. He finished 23rd.
"Not too long ago our goal was a top 20," noted Smith. "Right now that goal has changed to top 15s."