Now that’s what I’m talking about! No, I’m not talking about Kyle Busch vs. Kevin Harvick; I’m talking about the unlikely run of Regan Smith to the checkered flag at Darlington. Stories like his, and that of independent spirit of Furniture Row Racing are a big part of why this observer watches NASCAR.
Think about it: it wasn’t all that long ago that Smith looked finished in Sprint Cup racing. Stuck in limbo at Bobby Ginn- and later, DEI- the 2008 Rookie Of The Year seemed to be another story of a guy quickly forgotten a la Scott Wimmer or Casey Atwood. Fortunately, the New York native found another place to hang, courtesy of Furniture Row.
As a fan, if you cherish that independent spirit that has been so much a part of NASCAR’s history, then you have to like the Furniture Row story. They hang their hats in Denver, Colorado, as far off big-time racing’s beaten path as you can be. They’re a one car team. If you truly value competition, as this fan does, you have to appreciate during a time when they need to re-tool, FRR ran part-time instead of starting and parking.
How many times do you see the Regan Smiths of NASCAR run a great race, appear to be headed to victory, then have it snatched away by a NASCAR Goliath? Outside of the plate tracks, victories by the lesser lights are few and far between. Remember the second Talladega race- when Regan appeared to have the victory, and then it was stripped when the officials ruled that Smith ducked below the dreaded yellow “out of bounds” line- handing the win to Tony Stewart.
Yes, it was strategy that provided the win, but isn’t that a part of sports? Crew chief Pete Rondeau, the one-time Dale Earnhardt Jr. pit boss makes a great call to get the track position, and Smith has enough to hold off points leader Carl Edwards. There were numerous moments on those final laps when Edwards appeared poised to zip past the 78. In spite of slapping the wall on the final turn, Smith saved it, and this time, it was the underdog who prevailed.
While this does not suddenly make Regan Smith a contender, it’s another stamp of validation that Furniture Row Racing GM Joe Garone, owner Barney Vasser and company having things going in the right direction. It may be unrealistic to expect a sudden surge to the front week in and week out, the better qualifying efforts and steadily improving runs indicate FRR is one little train who can. How fitting on the same weekend that Animal Kingdom wins the Kentucky Derby coming with 25-1 odds.
Don’t you just love sports in times like this? It reminds us that the little guys in life can win, just like the little guys in sports.
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