News & Media

Smith no fan of fuel-mileage races despite results

August 01, 2011, Dave Rodman,

INDIANAPOLIS -- Regan Smith dislikes racing dictated by pit strategy, even though that exact mode this season has repeatedly delivered his career's best finishes.

Smith scored the latest coup of his career year Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where he and Furniture Row Racing crew chief Pete Rondeau played their hand perfectly to finish third in the Brickyard 400.

"I think it's pretty simple -- I hate 'em. I don't care, I don't think they're fun racing. I don't think there's anything good about them. "


That Smith's best friend in the Cup garage, Paul Menard, won -- becoming the fourth first-time winner this season -- and the highly-respected Jeff Gordon was second was no consolation to Smith.

"I think it's pretty simple -- I hate 'em," Smith said of fuel-mileage racing. "I don't care, I don't think they're fun racing. I don't think there's anything good about them. I'm certainly sure there's cars that ran up front, led a lot of laps, that ended up 10th or 12th."

Smith, who had no top-10 finishes in his first 95 career starts coming into this season, has taken his game to a significantly higher plateau this season.

He kicked off the year with a seventh at Daytona and, despite running hot and cold, has been "on" enough to win the legendary Southern 500 at Darlington, finish eighth in the Coca-Cola 600 and now, third at Indy.

Despite his shaky past at this historic track, Smith said he had reason to believe Sunday was going to be a better-than-average day no matter how the day played out.

"We needed to [improve]," Smith said. "We felt like we were a team capable of taking strides. We had a top-10 car [Sunday], that's what we had. If things played out correct we were going to finish right around ninth or 10th.

"The strategy was played out for us when the No. 51 car [Landon Cassill] wrecked [Lap 121]. We got our grille covered up in grass and actually had to pit. Cleaned the grille off, looked at the fuel strategy and said, 'You know what, let's top it off.' We had nothing to lose. We got to start in the back of the pack anyway.

"We pitted right before the green came out and it worked out perfect. They kept pulling me back, pulling me back about saving fuel. We'll see how much is left in the tank after all is said and done. I felt like I had a little bit to go a bit further."

Smith felt aspect of the dynamics of the race's end were a little frustrating.

"That is the most bittersweet third-place of all time because you can see the leaders [but you can't race them]," Smith said. "I saw the No. 27 [Menard] and I knew he was on the same strategy as us. I wanted to go and he went and we decided to pull the reigns back a little bit, hoping some more of them would run out of fuel."

Smith, saying "we didn't have track position for a long time," was never scored in the top 15 until the last 20 laps of the race. He passed Trevor Bayne for fourth with eight laps to go when the rookie had to pit for fuel.

"Then I saw the No. 24 [Gordon] come," Smith said. "And I thought 'we are in trouble now because he doesn't have to save at all.' So that kind of made our decision for us."

But the exclamation point to Smith's finish, despite the unsavory -- to him -- manner in which it was delivered, is the fact that Smith's best finish in three previous Brickyard 400s had been 31st, in his first race here, in 2008.

"My guys worked their butts off all weekend," Smith said. "This is not a great track for me, so I am happy and if I couldn't win, man, the guy in Victory Lane is my best friend on the circuit and I can't wait to get down there to congratulate him."

Smith has delivered in all of the series' major events this season, but this one left him shaking his head.

"We just got to figure out how to perform on the rest of the stages," Smith said through a grin. "We'll be in shape."

But the most confounding thing for Smith, who raised himself one spot in the standings to 26th, is that, being 76 points behind 20th-place Juan Montoya, all Smith can race for in the last 16 races of the season is wins.

If he could win again and get into the top 20 in the standings, a berth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup would be possible. But despite his generally optimistic nature, Smith conceded that was unlikely.

"Well, from my team's standpoint, I don't think we're looking at the top 20 right now," Smith said. "We'd have to win out at this point to have a shot at getting back up there. Certainly we'd love to do that. The reality is, this is such a tough series, it's going to be really hard to do."

Smith is competitive enough, and Rondeau -- despite his driver's distaste -- plays strategy well enough to make winning a possibility.

"We're going to focus on winning races," Smith said. "If it puts us in position to get top-fives, that's great. If we can sneak up there and maybe get [in the] top 20 [in the standings], and the right things play out, then cool.

"If not, we're working hard to make sure we can do this every week next year and this just isn't a thing we did a few times this year."