REGAN SMITH, NO. 78 FARM BUREAU CAR OF THE HEARTLAND IMPALA, met with media and discussed what the Daytona 500 means to him, new rules changes, his confidence in Furniture Row Racing, the drivers he liked as a kid, and more. YOU'VE HAD TO MAKE A...
REGAN SMITH, NO. 78 FARM BUREAU CAR OF THE HEARTLAND IMPALA, met with media and discussed what the Daytona 500 means to him, new rules changes, his confidence in Furniture Row Racing, the drivers he liked as a kid, and more.
YOU'VE HAD TO MAKE A LOT OF TEAM ADJUSTMENTS IT'S THE NATURE OF THE GAME. YOU'VE GOT TO HAVE A TOUGH SKIN FOR THAT. CAN YOU COMMENT?
"You know what? As sad as it is to say, I just feel like I'm used to it now at this points. There have been a lot of changes for me over the past four years and you know what? I think I've found a home now. I really enjoy Furniture Row Racing and I think we're going in the right direction with the company as a whole and with the team. And two or three years from now, we can sit back and say, 'Hey, you know what? We missed the Chase by 10 points. Darn it.' Or, 'Hey, we made the Chase and we did our jobs here and were in the Chase now.' Hopefully that will all come and I'll be able to say I told you so, and that I saw that coming. We've made a lot of good changes. Barney (Visser, owner of Furniture Row Racing) is extremely committed to the program and that's exciting for me because he's committed to the program and to me and we get to move forward trying to make things better."
DO YOU HAVE LESS OF A THRILL WHEN YOU DO THINGS OFF THE RACE TRACK LIKE JUMP OUT OF AIRPLANES OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT?
"No, I've done that before. It's not necessarily my favorite thing in the world to do. I don't mind it. I enjoy it. I'd say my thrill is outside of the race track coming from snowboarding and stuff like that. But I don't get all worked up over too many things like that."
WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT FOR YOUR PIT CREW, SHOULD THEY BE NATURAL ATHLETES OR NATURAL MECHANICS?
"I think they need to be a good mix of being natural athletes and being mechanics. We've got a lot of natural athletes on our crew right now. But you want them to know if something breaks how to fix that too. So being athletes is probably a little bit more important than being mechanical."
DO YOU DO ANY GO-KART RACING?
"You know, I've got one sitting in my garage. And I broke a break line on it about two weeks after I bought it and it's sat there for about a year and a half now. So that's one of my missions this year is to get that thing running again."
DOES IT HELP TO WORK YOU OUT?
"The go-karts are tough to drive and there's no doubt it's a good workout. That's why all the F-1 guys do it. It's the most comparable thing to what they actually race that they can get in. So, it's definitely a good workout."
DO YOU DO ANYTHING SPONSOR-WISE AS FAR AS MAKING APPEARANCES AND COMMERCIALS? WHAT DO YOU DO FOR FURNITURE ROW?
"Well, we do appearances. Basically Furniture Row's whole mentality is that racing is their marketing. This is what they use. They can get to more people by racing than they can anywhere else. So that's why you don't see necessarily too many commercials in the east on TV. We do some radio spots and stuff like that. AndOh we do in-store appearances. This year we're really ramping that up a lot. Last year was a difficult year for us to pull some of that off with a part-time schedule and I think this year we'll be a lot more active with that. I don't know what we've got lined up for Daytona this week but I know we'll be doing some stuff like that in the coming weeks."
DO YOU ENJOY INTERACTING WITH FANS?
"Oh, yeah. I mean none of us get to be here without folks sitting in the seats out there. And when you look at it at the end of the day, every single one of us in this room, we're all fans. We weren't be here if we weren't fans. We enjoy the sport. We enjoy watching it. We grew up as fans and decided to be involved in that somehow. Nobody can forget that one fact that we're all fans at heart."
DID YOU FOLLOW THE SPORT WHEN YOU WERE A KID?
"Oh, avidly. I remember sitting down here in Turn 1 and I watched probably five Daytona 500 from those seats right there. I know I got to see Davey Allison win one year. I got to see Jeff Gordon win his first one. Just a lot of different things happened like that. Rusty Wallace flipping down the backstretch one year and for me, that was about the time when we first would come down here from New York winters and we'd come down here to Daytona to watch the races and that was the first time when I decided when I got older I wanted to drive these things. And then I was racing go-karts and stuff at the time, but that was the one moment that clicks in my head as wanting to be one of those guys."
WAS IT A FAMILY DEAL WHEN YOU CAME HERE FOR THE RACES?
"Yeah, we'd make a vacation out of it. We'd go to Orlando and do all the stuff like that. That's the cool part about Daytona is you can make a family vacation out of it when you come down here. It was good times. I kind of had a grasp of what was going on because I was racing at the time and you could take me to a football game and I wouldn't have been able to tell you what they were doing. Why are they hitting each other? What's the point? But take me to a race, and I understood everything. Davey Allison was the reason I wanted to be a race car driver. When I was growing up, he was the first young guy. He had the first bright-colored car. He was considerably younger than most of the guys out there at the time. I remember watching him and I saw that Texaco car the first year and I was like oh, that's a cool car. I was a fan after that. And then the more you watched and the more you got to know about him that was my man. Unfortunately he didn't make it too much longer. I think he passed away when I was about 12. I took a liking to Earnhardt after that. So, everybody at some point in their life has been an Earnhardt fan, whether it's now or 20 years ago or whatever. I was one of the earlier ones."
WHAT WERE YOUR IMPRESSIONS THE FIRST TIME YOU CAME DOWN HERE FOR THE 500 AS A COMPETITOR? "The first time I was here as a competitor was a whirlwind deal for me. Actually, we didn't make the race on Thursday and man that was a wake-up call. We were beatin' and banging and at one point in the race were in position and at one point in the race we were out of position and it was a back and forth, back and forth deal. And it was a last-minute deal to bring that car down here. It was kind of like an insurance policy basically with having so many other cars down here that had to qualify. Outside of that, I'd say the first true year for me to really get a grasp on it and understand it was at DEI and it was the 50th Anniversary of the race. You're standing on the grid before the race and you're just looking around and you think holy cow, I used to be sitting there watching this thing and now I'm standing down here and now there's 250,000 people sitting here watching what we're getting ready to do. And it's overwhelming when you look at that and you don't get the realization of how big this race really is until that point there."
DID YOU FIND IRONY IN THE FACT THAT PRE-SEASON THEY WERE DISCUSSING GETTING RID OF THE YELLOW LINE RULE?
"I've gotten that question a few times (laughs). You know what? It really doesn't bother me. The rules package at the time and the way the judgment went at the time, it very easily could have gone the other way and it could have worked out in my favor. But I don't know if there's any irony or not to it. I told them to take it away basically. I remember watching Earnhardt in the grass down here a couple of times in the IROC races or whatever saving his car from wrecking up in the field and I thought it was really cool. So I said oh, take it away, it'll be okay. Since then, I got to read what Mark (Martin) and a couple of these guys have said about it and it makes sense. What he was saying is basically I don't mind if we wreck. But if you take the yellow line away we're going to do it on lap five instead of lap 200 or whatever. It makes sense to leave it in there for the competitors for safety reasons and it's safer for all of us and the fans and for everybody. It's smarter to have it there."
ONE OF THE ALTERNATIVES WAS BASICALLY THE WAY THE UNWRITTEN RULE USED TO BE WITH THE LAST LAP, ANYTHING GOES.
"I'm still okay with that. I think that needs to happen because I don't care who it is. If you're at Bristol or Charlotte or Daytona, if you have an opportunity on the last lap to make a move, the whole race track needs to be a player at that point. And if I want to sail it off in under the yellow line at Charlotte and try to drive up the banking inside of somebody, so be it. I'm probably not going to make it happen, but so be it. Go for it."
DO YOU READ THE COMICS?
"I do not read the comics. You're going to be really mad at me but I don't even read the newspaper to be honest with you (laughter)."
WHAT'S THE NEATEST THING YOU DID IN THE OFF-SEASON?
"I was out the whole month of December with a little minor surgery I had to have taken care of, so that kind of sucked. But outside of that, we went to Vail during the off-season and did some skiing for about a week, and snowboarding, and I had a really good time out there. It's a nice town and I got to take a couple of friends out there with me which was really neat. We lived it up big time; we had a good time."
ARE YOU ADJUSTING TO THE NO-TESTING POLICY AND DO YOU THINK IT CONTINUES TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE?
"I think it definitely makes a difference because even with the no-testing policy, I look at my schedule and we're going to Texas World and Pikes Peak and we just came from Pikes Peak before this race here. So we're still busy testing. If we were allowed to test full-time again wherever we wanted to go, we would literally get zero time home. We would be on the road 24/7. And that's fine; that's our job. Nobody is complaining about it. But, you've got to get a break from it too occasionally. You can't just go from Daytona to a test to another test and then to California. You've got to have a day to clear your head, basically, from the week prior. So I think the no-testing policy is good and I hope they keep it the way it is. There is still some testing that takes place, but it's just enough. There could be maybe some tweaks on the tire testing and that's it. That's the biggest thing."
ON THE SPOILER VERSUS THE WING:
"Competitor-wise, I think it's going to be way more exciting. It just seems like the car drives better. We put in on at Pikes Peak and I felt like it had that security back. It was a little bit like the old car where it's in the race track a little bit better. It's gripping the track a bit better. I know at Texas, times were like three-tenths slower but I think that was more from drag than anything. As drivers, we still relate to what the spoiler used to do aero-wise; where we needed to be with the spoiler and we're trying to go that with the wing and I'm not sure that's necessarily right. We're going to find that out very soon. But I think when you get a pack of 43 cars together you're going to see better racing back from 20th to 30th and guys able to make moves and make up spots to where it's tougher to do that right now."
-source: gm racing