Smith hasn’t come down from 1st win

Posted May 13, 2011, at 8:41 p.m.
Last modified May 13, 2011, at 10:36 p.m.

DOVER, Del. — Regan Smith still hasn’t come down from his whirlwind week.

He knows, though, it’s time to get focused.

A week after shocking the sport at Darlington Raceway with his first career NASCAR victory, Smith wants to prove he’s not a one-win wonder. His three straight top-20 finishes were highlighted by that coveted trip to Victory Lane.

It’s fueled him to get win No. 2 faster than it took him to get win No. 1 — 105 starts.

“I think we’re just going to focus on doing the same thing we did last week,” Smith said.

Not a bad idea.

Smith spent the week enjoying all the perks that come with taking the checkered flag. He received countless congratulatory messages from fellow drivers, fans and others in the sport. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper called team owner Barney Visser (Furniture Row Racing is based in Denver) to offer his well wishes.

Smith’s breakthrough success stretched deep into Furniture Row’s organization. He saw the looks of jubilation on pit road and realized how much the celebration meant to a crew that worked week after week without much to show for it.

“One of my favorite parts of the whole deal was getting out of the car and looking up and seeing my guys,” Smith said. “I would say for 90 percent of the guys on that team, it was their first time to Victory Lane.”

Smith raced his way into the All-Star event with the win.

“That’s a thrill to be in that race,” he said.

He now has his sights set on earning a spot in NASCAR’s Chase for the championship, starting with a second straight strong finish this weekend at Dover International Speedway.

A rules change this year in Chase qualifying gives Smith hope he can make the field, even as he enters Dover in 27th place. The first 10 spots this year will go to the top-10 in points. The final two spots are reserved for the winningest drivers not already qualified who are in the top 20 in points.

It’s early, but Jeff Gordon, Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne and Smith are the only two drivers outside the top 10 with victories. Illness has derailed Bayne’s season, leaving Gordon and Smith as the early contenders to claim those final two spots.

“We’ve got to focus on getting back into the top 20 because there is that chance that one win could get you into the Chase,” Smith said Friday.

Smith’s victory was overshadowed a bit by the pit road fireworks between Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch. Smith brushed off any idea that he lost a week in the spotlight because of the punishment NASCAR levied against Harvick and Busch.

“It doesn’t just have to be one story,” he said.

There’s room for every driver to shine for a time. This week was Smith’s turn. He wants a chance to show he can become a regular contender for the checkered flag.

“As much fun as that was,” he said, “I want to get that thrill again.”

 

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