First Telephone Call to Teammate Results in Sweaty Palms for Rookie Smith

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 14, 2007) -- Making the first telephone call to his new teammate -- Mark Martin -- took some self encouragement for Nextel Cup rookie Regan Smith. (pronounced Ree-gan)

"It took me a couple of days to get the nerve to call Mark and introduce myself," recalled Smith, who will share the No. 01 U.S. Army/Ginn Racing ride with Martin in 2007. "Ever since I started to race, Mark was the guy I always looked up to. He has always been my hero."

Smith, 23, said the telephone call in October was a success and compared it to a good qualifying lap at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

"It (the call) was intimidating at first -- I didn't want to say something stupid," said Smith. "I was talking for the first time to one of the giants of the sport. But as the conversation went on, Mark made me feel relaxed. It was like talking to another guy on the street. We both shared in our excitement about driving the Army Chevrolet for Ginn Racing."

"After the call my hands were shaking and that told me everything went well," added Smith. "I kind of compared the call to a qualifying lap in Atlanta or someplace where we run wide open. When you come in after a good lap in Atlanta your hands should be shaking and the palms sweaty. And that's just the way I felt after the phone call with Mark -- my hands were indeed shaking and sweaty. I am not ashamed to say that I was awestruck when I first called him."

While Smith was impressed with Martin, the veteran driver was also impressed with the rookie.

"Regan and I had a great conversation and we were on the same page," said Martin. "He's eager and wants to learn. But at the same time, he knows that patience is vital in enjoying future success. I am really looking forward to being his Army teammate and helping launch his career. This is an exciting time for the both of us."

After the maiden telephone call, Martin and Smith did get together in person during a December Car of Tomorrow test session in Lakeland, Fla.

"It was great being at a test session with Mark," offered Smith. "It was neat to compare our graphs and to see where he was doing things differently. You can't put a price tag on that -- getting valuable instruction from a veteran such as Mark. I would just love to accomplish a fraction of what he has accomplished in his career."

While Smith's first official ride in the 01 Army Chevy is scheduled for Bristol Motor Speedway (March 25), the upstate New York (Cato) native is looking to make his Nextel Cup debut in the Daytona 500. Smith and Martin will both be at Daytona International Speedway this week for a three-day test session.

Martin will be testing in the 01 Army Chevy and Smith will be testing the No. 39 car for Ginn Racing, which plans to enter four Cup cars for NASCAR's season opener. Joe Nemechek (No. 13) and Sterling Marlin (No. 14) took part in last week's Daytona test session for Ginn Racing.

"We're going there (Daytona) with four cars and I have every intention of the Daytona 500 being my first Cup start," said Smith, who filled in for Nemechek for a pair of test sessions in Daytona last week.

Since Smith's No. 39 Chevrolet is not part of the top 35 in points from 2006, he will have to qualify for the Daytona 500.

Smith will also compete in the NASCAR Busch Series in 2007 for Ginn Racing. He will share the 04 Chevrolet ride with Kraig Kinser.

-credit: ginn racing