WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Regan Smith capped off his homecoming weekend with a solid ninth-place finish in Sunday’s Sprint Cup road race at Watkins Glen International.
The result was Smith’s first career top-10 in eight starts on a road course and it was also his second straight top-10 of the season — he finished 9th at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway last weekend.
Smith, a native of Cato, N.Y. (75 miles north of Watkins Glen) was steady throughout the 90-lap race even though he had some issues with his No. 78 Furniture Row/Farm American Chevrolet on different parts of the 2.5-mile, seven-turn circuit.
“I am happy to come away with a top-10,” said Smith, who started the race from the 13th position. “We had to fight hard all day. I wasn’t overly happy with the car on a couple of spots on the track, and they were pretty crucial spots. Nonetheless, the guys worked hard in the pits with a strategy to get us up there. That’s the kind of thing you need to do when you’re not perfect on the track. In order for that to happen everyone has to pull together and work hard — and that’s exactly what we did.”
Smith dropped back to the mid 20s early in the race after making an unscheduled pit stop to repair damage to the grille. Once he returned to action, he charged to the front.
No doubt, the past three weekends have lifted the spirits and confidence levels for Smith and the Denver, Colo.-based Furniture Row Racing team. Smith also had a top-10 car at Indianapolis three weeks ago, but damage to the front-end past the halfway mark of the race resulted in an 18th-place finish.
“I am very proud of this team and very excited about what we’ve been able to accomplish recently,” stated Smith. Todd (Berrier, crew chief) has been a great leader since his arrival three weeks ago. We are heading in the right direction. You need to get top-10s before you get top-fives, and top-fives will eventually turn into wins.”
Berrier, who joined Furniture Row Racing prior to the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis, was equally pleased with the overall team effort.
“Regan drove a strong race today and everyone pitched in to help us get the top-10,” noted Berrier. “We’re pleased with a pair of ninth-place finishes the past two weeks, but we want more, and it’s our goal to get better.”
Smith, who paid a visit Thursday evening to where he started his racing career — at the Syracuse Fairgrounds Microd Track — jumped one spot in the Sprint Cup driver point standings — from 24th to 23rd.
“Watkins Glen is my home track and it’s a nice feeling to come away with a solid performance with so many family, friends and fans in this area,” said Smith. “I am also real excited about going to Michigan next weekend. We had a great test there a few weeks ago.”
The race winner was Marcos Ambrose. Rounding out the top-10 in order were: Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer, Sam Hornish Jr., Greg Biffle, Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Smith and Martin Truex Jr.
The race — Finger Lakes 355 at The Glen — had 10 lead changes among five drivers. There were four cautions for 13 laps.
The next Sprint Cup race is Sunday (Aug. 19) at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.