Fuel Issue, Flat Tire Relegate Smith to 23rd-Place Finish in Watkins Glen Road Race
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (Aug. 15, 2011) -- After a fast start in Monday's rain-delayed NASCAR Sprint Cup road race, Regan Smith encountered two major problems during the 92-lap event at Watkins Glen International.
His No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet ran out of fuel and was pushed to the pits during a caution on Lap 29. Then later in the race (lap 48) the left-rear tire on his car went flat, forcing an unscheduled pit stop. Despite the problems, the Cato, N.Y. native, who calls Watkins Glen International his home track, posted a 23rd-place finish.
Though Smith was frustrated he couldn't capitalize on a strong race car, he could take comfort that he has achieved major improvement in Sprint Cup road racing.
Prior to the 2011 season, Smith competed in four career road races (two at Watkins Glen and two in Sonoma, Calif.). His average finish in those four races was 34.75. With his 23rd-place result today and 16th in Sonoma back in June, his average for the two road races this season dropped to 19.5. His prior best finish at Watkins Glen was 34th.
Also, his 10th-place qualifying effort Friday was a career best on a road course.
"I guess it's nice to know you're making progress, but right now I feel our finish should have been so much better because of a fast Furniture Row Chevrolet that we had today," said the 27-year-old Smith. "That's the good news -- having a great tune-up that we can store in our road-course data base for next year."
Smith basically ran in or just outside the top-10 for the first 27 laps of the race. But when the caution came out on Lap 28, he was short on fuel and eventually ran out. His No. 78 Chevy was pushed to the pits by Casey Mears' No. 13 car.
The fuel issue dropped Smith from sixth to 24th in track position. He later dropped to the low 30s.
"We just missed the fuel window," said Smith. "Losing track position was costly. It was so unfortunate because we had a really good car. The flat tire in the middle of the race also hurt our comeback."
The other piece of good news for Smith is that he gained one position in the driver point standings -- from 26th to 25th.
The race winner was Marcos Ambrose, the fifth driver to score his first career Cup victory this season. Smith is also one of those five new race winners by capturing the Southern 500 victory (May 7) in Darlington, S.C.
The next Sprint Cup race is Sunday (Aug. 21) at Michigan International Speedway.