Regan Smith turned in a strong performance at the Glen for just his second top-10 of the 2012 season--his second in a row, in fact. The No. 78 ran in the top 10 for most of the event and survived the late-race mayhem to finish ninth, just ahead of Martin Truex Jr. and one spot behind Matt Kenseth.
The upturn in performance is a welcome change for the Furniture Row Racing driver. Prior to his ninth-place run at Pocono, Smith's best finish of the season had been 14th at Darlington. His only other top-15 result had been at Las Vegas in the third race of the year.
However, even with just two top-10's on the year, it hasn't been all bad for Smith in 2012. Although top-10's have been hard to come by, there have been several positives.
At 23rd in the standings, Smith is in position to turn in his best-ever points finish for the third year in a row. He finished 39th in 2009, 28th in 2010, and 26th last season. While his consistency has improved in 2012, he still has some work to do if he wants to match the career-high top-5 (2), top-10 (5) and laps led (36) totals he set last season. Smith has zero top-5's this year with just two laps led.
Needless to say, Smith has yet to match his most impressive career achievement to date: winning last year's Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway over Carl Edwards in a green-white-checkered finish, despite having older tires. That win remains Smith's only NASCAR victory to date.
But as Smith himself said after Watkins Glen, you have to score top-10's before you get top-5's, and top-5's will eventually turn into wins. With back-to-back top-10's for the first time in his Sprint Cup career, Smith is definitely on the right track.
The young driver has the right attitude and he now has the results to show for the team's hard work. The one-car operation based out of Denver, Colorado may be at a disadvantage to the powerhouses of NASCAR, but don't tell Smith and the No. 78 team that they can't battle for victories with the big boys. They've done it once, and they have every intention of doing it again.