Kentucky Rain Holds Smith To Top-10

Despite the rain that plagued Kentucky Speedway most of the week, a little sunshine peeked through for the start of the Kentucky 300 for NASCAR XFINITY Series machines on Friday. Regan Smith drove his Great Clips Chevrolet Camaro to a top-10 finish in the 200-lap event and gained points on the leader, despite losing a position in the standings.

With one of two practice sessions rained out on Thursday and qualifying canceled earlier Friday, Smith fired off from 13th spot on the initial green flag. With the limited amount of track time, Smith and his Great Clips team had to figure out what they had before moving ahead. Smith spent the first 25 laps sorting out his car, and ran in the top 15 or better until he stopped for four tires and adjustments under a competition caution.

The car was tight most of the night, but a persistent loose condition worked its way into the equation as the runs went on. When it was time to come down pit road for another stop, under yellow on lap 70, the car was loose on entry, tight in the middle and getting looser off the corners. That’s the classic paradox that no team or driver wants to find themselves in.

Another four-tire stop adjusted wedge and air pressure, and Smith went back out in 12th place. Over the next 120 laps, Smith would run as high as seventh and as low as 13th, but could never get the handle to make a serious move through the top 10. The pit crew reeled off an impressive 11.8-second stop to gain some track position, but the lack of clean air and the tight/loose situation made it hard for Smith to be consistently in charge mode.

That blazing pit stop came on lap 163 and Smith returned to the track in eighth place, only to lose two spots over the next 10 laps to sit 10th. That’s where he finished, earning his 10th top-10 finish in 16 races this season and first since Dover, four races ago. It was also his second straight top-10 at Kentucky, following a fifth-place run last fall.

Smith’s finish cost him fourth place in series points, by a single marker, but he gained a point on leader Chris Buescher, who finished behind Smith in 11th.  

Brad Keselowski won the race, followed by Erik Jones, Kyle Busch, rookie Daniel Suarez and Elliott Sadler. Paul Menard headed the second five, followed by Darrell Wallace Jr., JRM team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brendan Gaughan and Smith. JRM teammate Chase Elliott finished 13th, the first car one lap down.

Regan Smith, driver No. 7 Great Clips team

“With the lack of track time here this weekend, we were kind of behind the eight-ball on what we needed, and we never could get the car to be consistent at both ends of the track. We were in clean air a few times, but it wasn’t enough to get back all we lost in the shuffle, and we just weren’t consistent enough long enough to whittle down any of the spots we needed. We hung in there and adjusted, but as the track got freer, we were always just a bit outside the ideal adjustment. Still, it was a top-10 finish, and we needed that one, so we’ll take it and go on to New Hampshire.”

Regan Smith Race Report:
Kentucky 300

  Start 13th
  Finish 10th
  Laps Completed (Led) 200 of 200 (0)
  Points (Bonus) 34 (0)
  Standings (From Leader) 5th (-66)
  Condition (Status) Running