Sears Point: Regan Smith preview

For Smith, the only Puzzling Part of Infineon Raceway is Bay Area Weather SONOMA, Calif. (June 19, 2007) -- Everything seemed to be normal for Regan Smith during his first visit to Infineon Raceway last week for a practice session on the ...

For Smith, the only Puzzling Part of Infineon Raceway is Bay Area Weather

SONOMA, Calif. (June 19, 2007) -- Everything seemed to be normal for Regan Smith during his first visit to Infineon Raceway last week for a practice session on the 1.99-mile road course.

However, there was one small item that caught him off guard and it wasn't the hilly racing circuit located in the heart of wine country. Like most people who travel to the San Francisco Bay Area for the first time, it's getting to understand the varied weather pattern that takes some adjustment.

"When I went outside at the San Francisco airport I was freezing and couldn't understand why -- after all, this is summer and the sun was even shining," said Smith, who will drive the 01 U.S. Army Chevrolet in Sunday's Nextel Cup race at Infineon. "But an hour or so later when I arrived at the track in Sonoma I was sweating. I said to myself, 'What's up with the weather'."

Smith did get used to the weather change, but more importantly he got familiarized with the historic 10-turn road course while attending Jim Russell Racing Drivers School.

Sunday's race will be Smith's fourth Cup event of his career -- he's been sharing the 01 Army ride this season with veteran Mark Martin. After 15 races, the 01 Ginn Racing team is ranked fifth in owner points.

In his first three Cup races -- at Bristol, Martinsville and Talladega -- Smith accomplished his main objective of finishing each race and staying out of trouble. His finishes were 25, 26 and 24. But with more confidence after strong showings in recent Busch Series races, the Army driver said he is ready to kick it up a notch.

"The objectives of finishing the race and staying out of trouble are still the same," offered Smith, who is ranked fifth in Busch driver points. "But I also want to have a better finish. I know we're capable of at least a top 15, but you need to be patient and not make any mistakes. I've always felt very comfortable on a road course."

Indeed he does feel comfortable on the road circuits. In the March Busch Series race in Mexico, Smith was running fifth going into the last lap. The four drivers in front of him were: Juan Pablo Montoya, Denny Hamlin, Boris Said and Carl Edwards.

"That was some stout company to race against on a road course," noted Smith. "We ran fifth for a good portion of the Mexico race, but a last lap hiccup sent us to the back. Knowing that I could run with those guys coupled with our recent Busch success are factors which have boosted my confidence level going into this weekend races."

Along with competing in Sunday's Cup race in the Car of Tomorrow, Smith will also drive a Ginn Racing entry in Saturday's NASCAR Grand National West Series event at Infineon.

"The more experience the better," said the rookie Cup driver. "Infineon has a different feel than the road course in Mexico and at Watkins Glen. It's a technical track with all of the hills. You need to be patient and wait for your moment to strike."

-credit: gr

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya