REGAN SMITH, NO. 78 FURNITURE ROW RACING CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Phoenix International Raceway and discussed his finish in the Daytona 500, racing at PIR and his team's approach to the season.
HOW ABOUT THIS WEEK AT PHOENIX, YOU WERE EVERYONE'S BEST FRIEND AT DAYTONA? "I don't think anybody is going to need as many friends this week as they needed last week so that will probably change a little bit. We had a strong car and I feel like we are going to have a strong car here too. Last week was great but, that was last week and now we have to focus on Phoenix."
WHAT ARE YOU GOALS AND YOUR TEAM'S GOALS FOR THIS YEAR? "I said at the start of the year that our main goal was to start the season the way we ended last season. I felt like we were right around a 15th place team at the end of last year. If we can do and then build on that to the point that by the end of the year where we can hopefully be one of those teams that threatens for top-10s every week. You have good weeks and you might sneak a top-five in; you'll have bad weeks and you might finish 15th when you should have finished 10th. As long as we can get that consistency down, I think that is the main thing we are looking for. I feel like we are in position to be able to do that with some of the changes and stuff we did during the off-season."
WHAT IS YOUR OVERRIDING THOUGHT COMING OUT OF DAYTONA? IS IT PRIDE? THE WAY YOU GUYS RAN AND WORKED WITH OTHERS? OR IS IT DISAPPOINTMENT THAT WHAT IF THINGS HAD SHAKEN OUT JUST A LITTLE BIT DIFFERENT? "I think it is a little bit of both. It was funny, I was sitting in the car on the way to the airport with Megan (Mayhew, his finance), I looked at her and said 'You know, we had a really good week and a half down here and we got some finishes and we started the season off well and I'm happy about that'. So, you are proud about that. But at the same time, when you are leading the Daytona 500 with four laps to go and you are looking out front and there is nobody in front of you and you are thinking 'Man, this could get really neat here in just a minute'. Unfortunately, the next thought I had was 'I hope I don't get t-boned in the middle of the race track here'. But, it is kind of a mixed emotion basically."
WITH THE INCIDENT WITH KURT (BUSCH), DO YOU HAVE TO TEXT HIM OR TALK TO HIM AFTER THAT? OBVIOUSLY YOU KNNEW IT WASN'T INTENTIONAL BUT IS IT THE KIND OF THING WHERE YOU GUYS HAVE TO CLEAR THE AIR DURING THE WEEK? "That is a good question. We didn't and quite honestly I don't think we need to. We essentially worked almost like we were teammates all week down there and our cars were really good together. We were both confident with the moves each other was going to make and it was just circumstances. I knew the second that it happened that it wasn't really anybody's fault. It was just the type of racing we were doing there and when you get down to the last five-10 laps of a race like that, I think the last restart came somewhere around 10 laps to go or whatever it was, or the restart before that accident, and I remember saying to my spotter 'Go tell Kurt that I'm going to push and I'm not going to stop, so if he gets in a situation that is bad, I don't know what to tell him, but this is the point in the race where you are just going to keep pushing'. And that was what was going on behind him. The No. 88 (Dale Earnhardt, Jr.) was pushing the No. 14 (Tony Stewart) and they're not going to stop pushing no matter what's going on in front of them. You don't have to clear the air or anything like that, I think we both knew what happened and it was a racing deal and you move on."
DID THE FINISH GIVE YOUR TEAM MOMENTUM OR A BOOST IN CONFIDENCE? "I think the whole week gave us some momentum and definitely a boost in confidence. It is Daytona and we kind of start the other part of the season when we get here with the normal race tracks so it is a little bit of a different element. We felt strong going down there. We feel strong coming here and anytime you have a good run, it is going to give you confidence. It is a great way to start the season off and we'll try to arry it as long as we can."
IS TALLADEGA GOING TO BE JUST LIKE DAYTONA? "Yes, it is. And I agree with that 100% and I think we will see the exact same style of racing when we get to Talladega. I'm not smart enough to know what rules change they could make to keep us from pushing anymore. The only thing that I've thought is if they change the way the bumpers line up. That is a pretty significant change that you can't really make. I thought the racing was pretty good. We had a good day so I am naturally going to say that. I know there are some guys that probably hated it and some guys that loved it and guys that really didn't care either way. It was a good show for the fans. It wasn't like the 150s where you saw two groups of two cars breaking away or anything which I didn't anticipate personally. I thought it would be more like six to eight groups that could run together and maybe break away from the main pack on occasion. I would be ok with the same racing when we get there. I'm not sure they can change it really."
WHERE DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE MADE THE BIGGEST GAINS IN THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS, ESPECIALLY AT FURNITURE ROW? WHAT IS YOUR STRATEGY WITH THE NEW QUALIFYING PACKAGE? "As a team of Furniture Row, we have made a lot of gains. We are fortunate to have the RCR (Richard Childress Racing) alliance in engineering and engines and to have that relationship. That certainly helped last year when we got that fully implemented. Pete (Rondeau) taking over the crew chief position has helped me a lot. It has calmed me down in the car. It has gotten me to where I am thinking more about things on the track and than worrying about [other things] and getting spun out. A year ago, if we had wrecked with four to go at Daytona, I would have imploded in the car. I would have lost my cool and it would have been game over, we wouldn't have had a shot at even getting a top-10. Whereas this year, as soon as we got done spinning on the back straightaway, I was already [telling him] 'this is what I think it torn up, this is what I definitely need the first time we pit to be able to not lose a lap' and so on and so forth. They've changed my mentality. I think our whole program's mentality has changed in the past year year-and-a-half, two years. We certainly have a lot of good people in there. We had good people to start with and we've added new people to help supplement that. It's been a whole game change and thought change process for us.
"As for today with the qualifying stuff, I think everybody is going to have to make your mock-up runs. I'm sure some guys will fire up in the first practice and make a quick mock-up run so they don't waste that set of tires. For us, we are going to start off in race trim, work on race trim up until half-way through the second practice and then we will switch over and make our qualifying run. I'm not positive on the weather, I don't think we have rain until later tomorrow, so we should be ok for qualifying."
WHAT ARE YOU TAKING FROM LAST FALL'S RACE AND APPLYING TO THIS RACE? "We had a really good race car in November. I was real happy with my race car. We had a parts failure about half-way through the race that started hurting us and cost us some positions. It was a bump-stop that gave up basically and melted on us. I think if we fix that problem, we've made some adjustments on some stuff. Pit stops and things like that this year. I feel like that is going to help us out. I'm pretty excited to be here. It is going to be the last race we get to run on the track in its current configuration and think everybody is to get to race on it one more time and excited to see what it looks like when we get back here the next time."
ARE YOU GOING TO HAVE JOSH'S (BROWNE, TEAM ENGINEER ATTENDING COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY) SERVICES THIS SEASON? "I talked to Josh last night for an hour. As for coming to the track, I don't believe we will see him at the race track very much, maybe throughout the summer months periodically. He still works with me directly on the nights before races and stuff. We go over a lot of little things you just need refreshers on before you get to each of the race tracks. He helped me out a lot last year personally. I really pushed to make sure we could keep doing that same system."
-source: team chevy