Regan Smith, driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet, is no doubt a proponent of the saying ‘When one door closes, another opens.’ In this driver’s case, it is the Chase door that has closed and the door to The Glen that has opened.
[media-credit id=18 align=”alignright” width=”225″][/media-credit]Although he finished third at the Brickyard, Smith’s Chase chances indeed closed after a 21st place finish at Pocono. Smith admitted that he struggled at the ‘Tricky Triangle,’ a place that not only has three distinct turns but one that is also constantly changing.
“This place has had a summer to soak and it feels like every time we come back here, it’s a different place,” Smith said. “It’s a tough track to begin with and it’s even tougher when there’s no grip.”
Smith’s struggle at Long Pond left him languishing in the 26th position in the point standings. And with that, the driver pronounced the door closed on his Chase chances.
“I would say the door for us is pretty much closed,” Smith said. “It’s not necessarily locked yet, but it’s definitely shut.”
“Our Chase hopes are pretty much over with and that’s why we’re going to focus on getting top fives and trying to get wins and take the chances the rest of the year to see us do that.”
Given that, Smith shared his thoughts on how his race strategy, as well as the other drivers outside the Chase, might change.
“With the strategy playing out the way it has this year, it’s going to be really interesting when you do get into the Chase,” Smith said. “It’s going to have a different dynamic than in the past.”
“These guys in the Chase who were clicking off top fives easily, now that others are throwing in the strategy game, it’s going to make that even more entertaining.”
With the closure of the Chase door, Smith is most definitely looking forward to the door opening at his home track, Watkins Glen International. And his homecoming is definitely a date circled in red on his calendar.
“That’s one of the races that I highlight on my schedule,” Smith said. “We talk about the ‘big four’ or whatever, but that’s the fifth one for me just because it’s my home track.”
“I told my guys from the start of the year, if we can’t win one of the ‘big four’, then Watkins Glen is the next one for me,” Smith continued. “It’s the one I’m putting the most emphasis on.”
Smith is also excited about the door that has continued to open for him as a road racer, especially at The Glen.
“Certainly road racing has not necessarily been my strong suit but we did run pretty good last year until we broke a track bar of all things, which is a rare thing to have happen,” Smith said. “But in Sonoma, which is an even worse road course for me, we ran really well this year, led some laps and had a shot at a top ten.”
“That gets me really motivated to go to The Glen,” Smith continued. “I feel like we’re going to be really strong there.”
“We’ve been strong for quite some time and I think it’s going to continue there.”
While Smith may look forward to improving his road racing results, it also will no doubt feel good to stand in front of friends and families as he is introduced in pre-race ceremonies. Smith grew up in Cato, New York, 75 miles north of Watkins Glen, where he won regional and State championships in quarter midgets.
“It certainly doesn’t hurt to have the hometown fans on your side,” Smith said. “It’s the one place we go each year where I get one of the louder ovations and that’s a good feeling.”
The Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at The Glen will be Smith’s third race at Watkins Glen International. This will be his sixth career road course race at the Sprint Cup level.
Noting that The Glen is a one of the big races for him, Smith has also had an open door when it has come to other ‘big’ races this season. He took his first ever career checkered flag at Darlington in the Southern 500 and has also had top-10 runs in the Daytona 500, the Coke 600 and his most recent at the Brickyard.
“I’m glad to be a ‘big race’ driver, but I’d like to be the every race driver because they all pay 47 points to win,” Smith said. “But if you only have to pick big ones to do good at, that’s not bad either.”
“We want to get a little more consistency and be good in all the races not just the big ones,” Smith continued. “If we can do it in the big ones, we can figure out a way to do it in the rest of them.”
In addition to his open door at The Glen, Smith may just have an open door invitation in another sport. He recently threw out the opening pitch at Coors Field.
“The pitch got to the plate so that was good,” Smith said. “It was a straight throw.”
“It was a little bit high,” Smith continued. “I think it might have been a strike for Yao Ming or somebody tall. But for a normal size baseball player, it probably would have been more like a head shot.”
“I was way nervous because my guys were going to bust my butt for the rest of the year if I didn’t get it across home plate at least,” Smith said. “I figured I would err to the side of caution and go too far with it rather than not far enough.”
Smith is also opening the door to his new home in Colorado. He has sold his home in North Carolina and taken the plunge to head to Denver to be close to his race shop and team.
“I don’t know if we’re settled yet but we’re there,” Smith said. “I threw my house in North Carolina on the market just to test the waters and it sold almost immediately.”
“So, we’re committed,” Smith continued. “My fiancé Meghan is actually out in Colorado this week, which is good because that helps us get settled in more.”
“I love it out there,” Smith said. “I love the weather. I love the scenery.”
“Just waking up in the morning and it’s not humid like where I grew up,” Smith continued. “It’s just really nice.”
So, with the Chase door closed but The Glen door opening this weekend, Smith also feels that the door to consistency is starting to open wider. And that just makes him want to get back to the track even more.
“We’re starting to get the consistency that we want,” Smith said. “I’m really pumped up to get to the second part of the year.”