Fontana Brings Top-10 For Smith

The 300 opened with much promise for driver Regan Smith and the rest of the Suave Men Chevrolet team Saturday at Auto Club Speedway, but closed with the feeling that a potential victory slipped through their fingers. Smith’s Chevrolet Camaro could not shake a tight condition late in the race, and he finished ninth despite leading four laps and running in the top tier much of the day. It was his fourth top-10 finish in five races this season and third of the three-race West Coast swing to open the NASCAR XFINITY Series season.

Patience was the word of the day for Smith and crew chief Jason Burdett. After qualifying fifth, Smith’s Suave Men Camaro was loose going into the corners and tight coming off once the race started. The first pit stop, on lap 33, saw Burdett remove a spring rubber to help that, and it did.

That change woke the car up, and Smith started clicking off spots. After another yellow and four-tire stop on lap 47, the car came alive. Smith restarted 16th and within a handful of laps was up to ninth. New tires and heady driving took him up to sixth on lap 58, with fresher tires than his rivals and a clear shot at the top five.

As the leaders began pitting, Smith kept going, taking the lead on lap 78 and giving it up four laps later with his own stop. Unfortunately, the tight condition returned and Smith was unable to hold his spot in the top five. He battled on, scraping the wall at one point during the closing laps. The final restart on lap 121 saw Smith drop two spots to ninth, where he would eventually finish.

JR Motorsports teammate Kevin Harvick won the race in the No. 88 Chevrolet, followed by Brendan Gaughan, Erik Jones, JRM teammate Chase Elliott and Chris Buescher.

Regan Smith, driver No. 7 Suave Men team

“We were just too tight on exit all day long. Jason made a good call early to get me some track position, and we had a chance. We made good changes, and they would help for a while, but in the end, the nose wouldn’t stay planted. That last run, we were tight from the start. The Suave Men Chevy really liked leading the race, because of the clean air, but it was a dogfight all day long. You make one wrong move and get put in the middle groove, they keep coming and you’re losing spots. ”

Regan Smith Race Report: 300

  Start 5th
  Finish 9th
  Laps Completed (Led) 150 of 150 (4)
  Points (Bonus) 36 (1)
  Standings (From Leader) 7th (-30)
  Condition (Status) Running