How did Furniture Row Racing driver Regan Smith prepare for the first Sprint Cup road-race of the season?
He went to High Plains Raceway with the High Plains Drifter.
Translation: High Plains Raceway is a road course east of the team's Denver shop, and the High Plains Drifter is Smith's driving coach Rick Carelli, an Arvada, Colo. native, who acquired the moniker during his successful career as a late-model, modified, stock car and truck series racer.
"They even have a corner named after Rick at High Plains Raceway," said Smith, driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row/Farm American Chevrolet. "It's pretty neat that we have a road-course facility fairly close to our Denver (Colo.) shop, and to have Rick offering his expertise is a bonus."
Smith and the Furniture Row Racing team were at High Plains Raceway in Deer Trail, Colo. Tuesday testing for Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350 road race in Sonoma, Calif.
Carelli, an inductee into the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame, feels both Smith and the team are well prepared for the Sonoma event.
"If you don't like road racing chances are you're not going to do well at it," stated Carelli, an original NASCAR Truck Series driver in 1995. "But that's not the case with Regan. He is a good student and welcomes the challenge to improve his road-racing skills. I am looking for a solid weekend out of this Furniture Row Racing team."
Despite only six career Sprint Cup starts at road course venues -- three in Sonoma and three in Watkins Glen, N.Y. -- Smith has developed a fondness for the left-and-right-hand-turn style of racing, which was once greeted with a bitter dislike by an earlier generation of NASCAR Cup drivers.
But times have changed and today's Sprint Cup drivers, including Smith, have a much different outlook toward the road courses.
"I enjoy the road course races, it's a nice change of pace," said the 28-year-old Smith, who grew up near the Watkins Glen road course in Cato, N.Y. "It's great racing to watch and as exciting as anything we do during the course of the season. Seeing the beating and banging that goes on, and the guys roughing up each other, make for some really good entertainment. Unlike years past, most of the drivers now look forward to the challenges of road racing in Sonoma and Watkins Glen."
Of his six road course starts, Smith's best finish was 16th last year at the demanding 10-turn, 1.99-mile Sonoma circuit.
"Sonoma is a technical track and you can't let your guard down," explained Smith. "As a rule, strategy is key to having success in road racing -- we almost run these road course races like a Formula 1 race. There are so many reasons I am looking forward to this weekend and one of them is that we continue to find more speed in our Furniture Row/Farm American Chevrolet."