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Regan Smith struggling so far

- jutter@charlotteobserver.com
Friday, May. 11, 2012

Regan Smith doesn’t need a reminder. He sees the trophy in his house every day.

Smith left Darlington (S.C.) Raceway last season a first-time Sprint Cup Series race winner after a victory in the Southern 500, one of NASCAR’s biggest races.

The victory helped validate his position as a driver and his fledgling Furniture Row Racing team as a contender.

One year later, Smith would love a repeat performance, if only to jump-start his 2012 season.

“I think the reason I dwell on my win last season now is because it serves as a reminder – we want more of them,” Smith said. “It’s a reminder that it’s a lot of fun to win races, so let’s do the right things to get back there and win more races.”

This season has been a struggle for Smith and his team, based in Denver, Colo. Through 10 races they have yet to finish a race in the Top 10. His best performance was 15th at Las Vegas and he’s led only two laps, both in the season-opening Daytona 500.

In last weekend’s race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway – where Smith typically performs well – the engine in his No. 78 Chevrolet failed 15 laps into the race.

It is not the season Smith envisioned.

“I definitely thought after we got that first win we’d be more consistent with top-10s and top-fives, and we have not been more consistent,” he said. “It’s hard to say you’re surprised you haven’t won again because the series is so tough.

“There are guys on winless streaks who run up front every week and just haven’t quite put it all together for that one day. So, I’m not surprised I haven’t won again yet.

“I may be a little bit disappointed because I thought that victory would propel us a little bit more than it did.”

There were more bright spots after Darlington last season. Smith ran eighth in the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte and third in the Brickyard 400. But the consistency didn’t come.

So far in 2012, even top-10 finishes are missing.

“I think the first four or five races we were strong, we had speed,” Smith said. “We ran out of fuel at Phoenix and had a penalty at California, two races where we were running well. I thought we were going in the right direction.

“Now, we’ve had some struggles that last few weeks. We’ve got everything we need to win. I think the thing we are lacking is just some overall speed right now.”

Furniture Row has a technical alliance with Richard Childress Racing and gets its engines from Earnhardt-Childress Racing.

With two of the three RCR Cup teams off to a slow start as well, all four of the teams have been working to improve.

“Everybody is working hard,” Smith said. "We need to forget about the past, look forward and start to turn things around.”

A Southern 500 victory Saturday night couldn’t hurt.

Utter: 704-358-5113; Twitter: @jim_utter


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