Sprint Cup - Smith Closes Strong To Finish 13th In Michigan
BROOKLYN, Aug. 22, 2011: Regan Smith poured it on during the green-white-checkered overtime finish, picking up seven spots in track position to give Furniture Row Racing a 13th-place finish in Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway.
"The driver absolutely did a stellar job on that last go and he really earned his keep today," said Furniture Row competition director Mark McArdle about Smith's final charge to the front.
Smith, who started 30th, his worst qualifying effort of the season, was fast early in the scheduled 400-mile race. After the first seven laps he already picked off nine positions.
"We were strong early then kind of stalled in the low 20s and high teens," said Smith. "But as the race went on our No. 78 Furniture Row/Farm American Chevrolet got better and I felt we had the power to move further to the front. But when that caution came out (Lap 168) after we pitted I thought our day was ruined."
Just after Smith took four tires and fuel on Lap 167 of 203, the yellow flag waved, putting Smith a lap down and in 26th place. He did get his lap back and when the final caution came out on Lap 198, he was running 20th.
Crew chief Pete Rondeau was faced with a difficult decision of whether to pit or not to pit for the green-white-checkered finish. As he weighed the pros and cons, he decided to call Smith to pit road to take four fresh tires.
"My gut said we needed new tires," said Rondeau. "You just never know. At the time I felt it was the right thing to do. Regan drove his heart out in those final two laps to give us a solid finish."
Smith said he was pleased to have the fresh tires which allowed him to have more grip on the two-mile oval.
"Pete made a good call at the end to take four tires," stated Smith. "We picked up seven positions to finish 13th, which turned out to be a good day for our Furniture Row/Farm American team. We didn't qualify well, but it sure feels good to battle back like we did today. Our pit crew was spot on today too. An overall great team effort."