Late Accident Spoils Smith's Chance of Victory in Daytona 500
Furniture Row Driver Fights Back to Finish7th - First Career Top-10
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 20, 2011) – Regan Smith and the Furniture Row Racing team went into Sunday’s Daytona 500 with a legitimate chance to win, and nearly pulled it off.
Running in the top three with fewer than three laps remaining in Sunday’s race, Smith found himself sideways with a snarling pack of cars bearing down on him. If that wasn’t bad enough, his chance to win sailed right on past as well.
Smith and constant companion Kurt Busch had drafted their way to the front and led lap 194. As the cars sorted themselves out at Daytona International Speedway, Dale Earnhardt Jr. got into the rear of Tony Stewart, who in turn tapped the rear of Busch’s car.
The force was enough to turn Smith's Furniture Row Chevrolet sideways and into Ryan Newman, and the rest was a battle to get as many points as possible.
“I’m not really sure what happened,” a disappointed Smith said upon climbing out of his battered Chevrolet. “I saw Kurt [Busch] get off me a little bit there and the product of what we’re doing is, you have to check up to let your partner get back to you. I think he got pushed, too, and I just got hammered really hard there and turned sideways. I couldn’t do anything about it.”
When he got the car righted and back to pit road, the damage was behind the front wheels, so crew chief Pete Rondeau slapped four tires on it, cleared the worst of the sheet metal and sent Smith back out in 14th spot for the green-white-checkered finish.
By the time the cars got the green flag, he was 12th, and spotter Clayton Hughes told Smith, “Lay the wood to it.” In racing terms, that means push for all your worth. Smith did, finally finishing seventh.
Despite earning his first top-10 finish and the first for Furniture Row Racing, it was still a come-down from leading the biggest race of the season within sight of the white flag.
“When you can see the lead with five to go and then you’re in the lead and then in the wall, it’s a disappointing day,” Smith said. “It’s life and we go on to Phoenix and focus on the rest of the season. The Furniture Row Chevrolet was good, and it was frustrating, but…we’ll go to Phoenix.”
As for the late accident that wiped away his chance at victory, Smith shrugged.
“It’s just gonna happen,” he said. “That was nobody’s fault back there. I don’t blame anybody. I was trying to get back to my partner, and it just didn’t work out.”
It was a good points day, looking at the big picture. His seventh-place finish netted 37 points, and he led seven laps, which adds another bonus point to his total. Smith was told by crew chief Rondeau not to use partial throttle the rest of the way. He didn’t, and the car lived through all 208 laps.
The race winner was rookie Trevor Bayne. Rounding out the top-five in order were: Carl Edwards, David Gilliland, Bobby Labonte and Kurt Busch.
The next Sprint Cup race is Sunday (Feb. 27) at Phoenix International Raceway.