The anticipation about Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway has been crescendoing for Regan Smith ever since he and his Furniture Row Racing team departed from the Goodyear tire test session at the 2-mile oval on July 30.
According to Smith the Michigan test went so well that the team packed up early and headed back to its home base in Denver with a new level of enthusiasm.
“I have more confidence going into Michigan than I ever had going into a race in my career,” said Smith with 100 percent conviction. “The only reason we left the test early in Michigan is because we felt that strongly about how good our Furniture Row/Farm American Chevrolet was.”
The surging Smith also has other reasons for his newly-found optimism as he prepares for the Pure Michigan 400. The two races following the Michigan test, the 28-year-old driver posted consecutive ninth-place finishes — at Pocono and Watkins Glen. The results were his first top-10s of the season and the Watkins Glen finish was a career best on a road course.
“No doubt this Furniture Row Racing team has taken a huge leap to where we were the majority of the season,” stated Smith during an interview on Siriusxm Satellite Radio. “We made some big changes and with those changes come a lot of different ideas with the race car. We fundamentally changed everything and the performance has picked up. I’m doing the same thing in the race car that I’ve done all year — the cars are just going faster. We’re unloading with speed, and once you unload with speed, you can work on the fine-tuning details to get the car ready for the race.”
Smith, rightfully so, has been tipping his hat to crew chief Todd Berrier, who joined the team three races ago. And in those three races, the team has averaged a 12th-place finish, almost slashing in half its season average of 22.545.
“Todd Berrier is one of the most meticulous persons that I’ve been around in my career,” explained Smith. “We believe in each other, and when you have that kind of chemistry, good things develop.”
Though Furniture Row Racing has enjoyed recent success, Berrier wants more out of the team and knows the potential is there.
“We’re moving along at a nice pace, but obviously we want to pick it up and keep on improving,” said Berrier. “I believe we can do that and reach that new level of competition.”
Smith enters the Pure Michigan 400 with seven career starts at MIS and a best finish of 13th, which he achieved in last year’s August race.
“As we know so many things can happen in a race, but I would be awfully disappointed if we didn’t better that 13th-place finish,” said Smith.
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