Smith Finishes 20th in Rain-Shortened California Race
FONTANA, Calif. (March 25, 2012) – Despite a pit-road speeding penalty, Regan Smith posted a 20th-place finish in Sunday’s rain-shortened Auto Club 400 Sprint Cup race.
The scheduled 200-lap, 400-mile event was called on Lap 129 after rain hit the Inland Valley area in Southern California. Under NASCAR rules the race is official once half the laps are completed.
Smith once again used the word “salvaged” when discussing his finishing position following the fifth race of the season.
Driving the No. 78 Furniture Row/Farm American Chevrolet, Smith started the event 22nd and when the first lap was completed on the two-mile oval he had already gained six positions.
“I told myself that this is going to be a good day, the car felt solid,” said Smith, who jumped one spot to 19th in the driver point standings. "We were off and running until I got called for speeding on pit road.”
The speeding infraction occurred on Lap 34 as Smith was exiting pit road following his first stop of the day. The penalty was a pass-and-go on pit road, which dropped Smith all the way back to 33rd place and a lap down.
“I really didn’t think I was speeding, but NASCAR has the official clocks,” stated Smith. “Four other drivers were also citied for speeding today. I feel bad about the speeding penalty because that took away our momentum, and without cautions, it was really tough to make up ground in our Furniture Row/Farm American Chevrolet.”
While it was difficult to gain positions on the track, crew chief Pete Rondeau found another way to pick up a few spots. After checking the weather radar with his engineering staff, he made a strategic call not to pit following the only caution of the race on Lap 125 (for moisture). Four caution laps later the race was red-flagged and then later called.
“That was a perfect call by Pete – it salvaged our day,” noted Smith. “But on the other hand we’re not happy with 20th because we had a car that was at least five or six positions better than 20th.”
The race winner was Tony Stewart. Rounding out the top-10 in order were: Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle, Ryan Newman, Martin Truex Jr., Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson.
The next Sprint Cup race is Sunday (April 1) at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.