Smith Seeking Friends for Uncharted Conditions at Daytona
Excuse Regan Smith if you catch him humming the Beatles hit song -- "With A Little Help From My Friends" -- in the NASCAR garage.
Actually, Smith and every other Sprint Cup driver will need a lot of help from their fellow competitors at the newly-paved, ultra-fast Daytona International Speedway.
Entering uncharted conditions at the famed 2.5-mile track, Smith is well aware of the importance of having a drafting partner in Thursday's Gatorade Duel qualifying race and Sunday's Daytona 500.
"Now it's all about making friends -- we're going to have to do some politicking," explained Smith, driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet. "Without a partner you're simply toast. It's like musical chairs -- you don't want to be the last guy without a chair, and you sure don't want to be the last driver without a dancing partner in the big race."
Smith feels that Furniture Row Racing being a single-car team should not be a negative for finding a drafting partner.
"Based on what I saw in the (Budweiser) Shootout, the guys weren't necessarily concerned about their allegiance. Finding the best partner was the first priority."
Mark McArdle, managing director of competition for Furniture Row Racing, echoed Smith's feelings.
"With all the talk about teammates working together it wasn't that way in the Shootout," noted McArdle. "You simply find the car you work well with regardless of team, manufacturer, driver and sponsor."
McArdle added, "It will be a challenge. As in any situation that's in flux, he who adjusts best is going to potentially have the advantage for a short period of time."
Since he raced in Saturday's Shootout, Smith feels a lot better about what needs to get done for the 500 and Thursday's 150-mile qualifying race.
"You can't really simulate race conditions at a superspeedway in practice," said Smith. "It was definitely helpful to be in the Shootout even though we got collected in an accident and didn't run all the laps."
Smith, who finished 12th in his last superspeedway race at Talladega in November, feels he has the car and team to pull off strong finishes in the qualifying race and the 500.
"We've been preparing for the opener for a long time and we're ready," stated Smith. "Having a technical alliance with Richard Childress Racing and running Earnhardt Childress Racing engines are a big boost to our Furniture Row Racing program. In our world, there's nothing like the Daytona 500 and there's nothing like starting the season with a solid performance. We just need to continue what we were doing at the end of 2010."
Speaking about the late stages of last season, Smith and the No. 78 team rallied to notch some strong finishes, including three top 13s in the final seven races.