Sprint Cup - Victory Helps Smith Cope With Talladega Memory
DENVER, Oct. 19, 2011: When Regan Smith arrives at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway for this weekend's Sprint Cup race he will have more comfort dealing with the memory of his almost victory three years ago at the 2.66-mile oval.
Smith crossed the finish line first in the October 2008 Talladega race, and what appeared to be his first-career victory, was quickly taken away when NASCAR penalized him for passing Tony Stewart below the out-of-bounds yellow line on the final lap. The controversial penalty gave Stewart the victory and sent Smith from first to 18th in the final running order.
"When I would return to Talladega I would think about what happened and wondered if I would ever again be in position to win a Sprint Cup race," said Smith. "It stayed with me for a long time."
The lingering memory actually stayed with Smith until early May of this year when he again found himself in position to win. It was in the prestigious Southern 500 race at the daunting Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, where Smith impressively claimed his first official victory after holding off the field on old tires during a green-white-checkered overtime finish.
"I never felt the Talladega track owed me anything," explained Smith, driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet. "I wanted to have a win so badly, and when it finally came at Darlington, the victory did soften the Talladega disappointment. However, the Darlington win doesn't soften our desire to win this weekend. I would love to experience that winning feeling again. I enjoy restrictor-plate racing and feel that we have a good shot at winning at Talladega."
Smith has had success on the big superspeedways. At the season-opening Daytona 500 he was leading until he got tangled in an accident with five laps remaining. Despite a wrecked car, he still finished seventh in the 500. In his last two races at Talladega he finished 12th and 15th.
It's been a breakthrough season for Smith and the Denver, Colo-based Furniture Row Racing team, scoring one win, two top-fives and five top-10s.
"A second win would really put an exclamation mark on the season," noted Smith. "I feel confident coming into Talladega."