Phoenix Brings Top-10 For Smith

Regan Smith earned his sixth straight top-10 finish on Saturday at Phoenix International Raceway, gaining seven points on leader Chris Buescher in the process, but left the 1-mile desert oval with the feeling that he and his No. 7 TaxSlayer.com Chevrolet team had left a few on the table. Smith trails Buescher by 24 points heading to the NASCAR XFINITY Series’ final race of the season next week at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Smith brought his bright red and white Camaro home sixth, while Buescher came in 13th. Ty Dillon, who led Smith by a single point coming in, finished one spot ahead in fifth and sits two points clear heading to Florida. JRM teammate Chase Elliott finished seventh, and trails Buescher by 18 with one race yet to play.

Smith started the race in 11th place and spent the first 42 laps climbing the ladder a spot at a time. On lap 42, he passed Kyle Larson for sixth despite fighting a car that started off loose in and in the middle. After about 20 laps, the car started coming around and he was able to make up positions by being stronger the longer he ran. On lap 51, he was the fastest car on the track, and hunting down Daniel Suarez for fifth place. Nine laps later, the caution came out, and Smith pitted for four Goodyear tires and Sunoco fuel, coming out fifth. The new set of tires, however, did the same as the first one, and he was back to loose and fighting the entry and exit of the corners.

On lap 75, Suarez got past for fifth again, and they ran that way until what turned out to be the final caution flag of the race on lap 114. Smith came down pit road again for four tires and fuel, plus a wedge adjustment, and returned to the track in seventh place.

The remaining 80 laps clicked by with Smith doggedly chasing Ty Dillon for the top five and the point that would go with it. Both drivers were trying to save fuel, and though Smith narrowed the gap to less than a second, he was unable to get the spot. It was his 12th straight top-10 finish dating back to Mid-Ohio, and 25th of the season Kyle Busch won the race, leading 190 of the 200 laps. Brad Keselowski was second, followed by Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez and Dillon.

Regan Smith, driver No. 7 TaxSlayer.com team
“It was a tough battle today, with the car starting out loose and nervous on new tires, but after about 20 laps it would start to come in and we could race with it. Just as it’s been for the past several races, we needed to make a dent in that point lead the 60 car [Buescher] has, and we did that, but we needed more than seven points. We made good changes for today’s race after practice yesterday, and we came a long way with it, but at the end I couldn’t get to the bumper of the 3 [Ty Dillon] and race him for position and the points. It’s all down to one race next week, and we will go out and work hard and do everything we can to bring the title and the trophy home. The hill’s a little less steep than it was, but it’s still a hill. We’ll come back and try it again next week and see where we wind up.”

Regan Smith Race Report:
DAV 200

  Start 11th
  Finish 6th
  Laps Completed (Led) 200 of 200 (0)
  Points (Bonus) 38 (0)
  Standings (From Leader) 4th (-24)
  Condition (Status) Running