Smith Endures Roller Coaster Afternoon at Chicago

The Owens Corning Atticat 300 at Chicagoland Speedway was up and down for Regan Smith and the JRM No. 7 team. After qualifying fourth in the Goody’s Chevrolet Camaro, hopes were high as the team looked to gain ground in the NASCAR XFINITY Series driver standings, and early on, it looked as if it was going to be a good day.

But a persistent handling issue—tight in the middle of the corners—presented itself early and never quite went away, no matter how much crew chief Jason Burdett and the team tried to get it out. At the first pit stop on lap 26, a competition caution following Saturday night’s heavy rain which postponed the race a day, Smith was sixth; after the pit crew knocked out an 11.55-second four-tire stop, he was second. On the ensuing restart, he raced away from the pack to gain the lead. It was the first of 18 laps Smith would lead on the day.

It was short-lived, however, as eventual race winner Erik Jones got past eight laps later, and the handling got progressively tougher for Smith to hold onto and he fell to sixth. Another pit stop, this one 11.1 seconds, got Smith back to second on a caution at lap 97, and he led again, but Jones again passed for the lead on lap 113.

It went that way until lap 150, when the crew cranked out another sub-12-second stop to get him more track position. NASCAR maintained that Smith and 22 other cars had hit a closed pit road and called a penalty. Despite the specter of starting from the tail, Smith rolled off 10th on the restart.

On the final restart, Smith began in the fifth position, but couldn’t hold off the cars behind him and wound up 13th at the finish.

Jones won the race, followed by Ryan Blaney, Austin Dillon, Brendan Gaughan and point leader Chris Buescher. JRM teammate Chase Elliott was 14th, while JRM rookie Ben Rhodes came home 21st. Smith’s finish kept him fourth in the driver standings, but he lost ground to leader Buescher, sitting 62 points out of the lead after 14 races.

Regan Smith, driver No. 7 Breyers team
“We were fast, but just so tight all day. We kept trying to free it up in the middle, but nothing seemed to work and it was affecting my entry and exit. We finally had to quit trying to fix the middle and just get what we could.  The pit crew was outstanding today, getting the Goody’s Chevrolet spots on every stop, and we were able to do good things with it every time we stopped, but we just couldn’t hold onto the spots they gave us. We’ll go to work and figure it out with Jason and the crew guys before we head back to Daytona.”

Regan Smith Race Report:
Owens Corning AttiCat 300

  Start 4th
  Finish 13th
  Laps Completed (Led) 200 of 200 (0)
  Points (Bonus) 32 (1)
  Standings (From Leader) 4th (-62)
  Condition (Status) Running