Texas Leaves Smith Wanting More

Regan Smith had the chance he needed to gain ground on those ahead of him in points on Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway, but his Suave Men Chevrolet was too tight in the final run to the checkered flag and he dropped three spots to ninth at the finish of the Texas 300 NASCAR XFINITY Series event on the 1.5-mile oval.

Despite gaining two points on leader Chris Buescher to trail by 31 with two races remaining, Smith fell to fourth in the standings, a single point behind Ty Dillon, who finished fifth.

Smith lined up sixth for the final restart with 16 laps remaining and got past both Dillon and Erik Jones in the first two laps after the green flag waved, but the tight condition that had plagued him over the final 80 laps returned with a vengeance and he started to drop positions. On the final lap, he lost eighth place to JRM teammate Chase Elliott in the final two turns to end up ninth.

Starting fourth after NXS qualifying was cancelled due to persistent weepers under the surface of the 1.5-mile oval, Smith ran in the top five until the competition caution waved after lap 25. Near the end of that initial run, Smith scuffed the wall with the right side off Turn 4 when the car suddenly went aero-tight. A quick stop for fuel, tires and adjustments got him back out in fourth, and he dug in again to make a charge toward the front.

The Suave Chevrolet was still tight, though crew chief Jason Burdett had made it better, but a loose entry into the corners made for some excitement for Smith behind the wheel. By the time caution next waved, Smith was in fifth and ready for more adjustments. He got them, and on the restart at lap 84, he rocketed to second place. He would stay in the top five for the rest of that run, and quick pit work again on lap 116 got him back out in third place.

During that run, however, the car went tight “like a light switch,” Smith said, and the struggle began anew. He stayed in the hunt until the final caution, when the tight condition returned.

Brad Keselowski won the race, followed by JRM teammate Kevin Harvick, Austin Dillon, Jones and Ty Dillon.

Regan Smith, driver No. 7 Suave Men team
“We knew coming in we had to make up points in big chunks to be in the title hunt, and we had the opportunity tonight, but we got so tight in the last 80 laps that it made it difficult to do that. We gained a couple of points on the 60 car [Buescher], but we have to gain more than that to have a shot at this. Early in the race we were too loose entering the corners, but Jason fixed that for the most part, and on the next-to-last stop, it just went so tight all of a sudden, like someone flipped a light switch. Even on the final restart, where we had a chance to make up spots, it even got tight in traffic. I am scratching my head about how that happened. We’ll just have to go to Phoenix and try to knock more points off. It isn’t over.”

Regan Smith Race Report:
O'Reilly Auto Parts Challenge

  Start 4th
  Finish 9th
  Laps Completed (Led) 200 of 200 (0)
  Points (Bonus) 35 (0)
  Standings (From Leader) 4th (-31)
  Condition (Status) Running