Regan Smith, driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, pulled off one of the most surprising victories of the 2011 season when he held off a hard-charging Carl Edwards on old tires to win the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.
Nearly one year later, he still acknowledges his Southern 500 win as one of the greatest racing moments in his career. With his name forever being listed on the Johnny Mantz trophy, Smith will now come back to Darlington Raceway for the Bojangles’ Southern 500 race weekend on May 11-12 with a different title – defending champion.
“Winning the Southern 500 last year was a memorable milestone for our team,” Smith said. “It’s still unbelievable that we pulled it off. I recently tweeted that I would rather win the Southern 500 then win the lottery, and I am not changing my stance on that! I look forward to coming back on May 11-12 and trying to defend my win. No matter what, Darlington will always hold a special place for me.”
Winning a race in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series is a career-defining moment for most drivers, Smith included. Earning that first victory racing against the sport’s top drivers on the sport’s toughest track earns a little more respect and makes the walk through the garage a little different – like you belong with the best of the best.
“We had special rings made up for our first Sprint Cup win and I wear mine proudly,” Smith said. “To do it at such a historic venue like Darlington Raceway means a lot. Many of the sport’s best drivers have never won at Darlington so to have my name listed on the Johnny Mantz trophy next to so many of the greats that have conquered the track that is Too Tough to Tame will always be one of my greatest racing achievements.”
Smith will return to Darlington on May 11-12 for the Bojangles’ Southern 500 race weekend, this time with a feeling of having home-court advantage as the defending champion.
“When we unloaded the car off the truck at last year’s Southern 500, I felt we were going to have a car that was fast enough to win the race, as I have felt at many tracks,” Smith said. “It just so happened last year that I was right. I think the feeling will be back when we get to Darlington in a few weeks. Being the defending champion, I’m very comfortable saying that.”