In the immediate aftermath, Regan Smith was fuming. A few days later, he's able to take a more constructive view of the incident that sheared his 58-point lead in the Nationwide Series almost by half.
Smith's 11-race streak of top-10 finishes ended Saturday at Road America in a 32nd-place result -- his worst of the season. That wasn't due to the JR Motorsports driver's lack of experience on the 4-mile road course -- he was running in the top five late in the event when he was the victim of a chain-reaction accident that involved Parker Kligerman banging into Owen Kelly, who in turn sent the points leader spinning out.
Smith was clearly unhappy after the race, and with good reason. What had been a 58-point series lead with the potential to become even bigger had instead been whittled down to 28 over new points runner-up Justin Allgaier, who finished second to race-winner AJ Allmendinger. On Tuesday, Smith tried to take a wider view of the situation, particularly given how rough road course events have become at NASCAR's national division.
"I think it's a fine line. You're certainly not happy about it. You're certainly not happy about the way things went down towards the end of the race and the way that the driving turned into more slamming instead of actual racing," Smith said on a conference call with reporters.
"With that said, it's in the rearview mirror, and you can't change that it took place the way that it did. All you can do is focus on going forward. One of the reasons that we've worked as hard as we have this year, to not only get the points lead, but to try to have the points lead be as large as it was, (was) in case something like that did happen somewhere and we crossed bad luck."
The solace, he said, is that the No. 7 car showed plenty of speed, even on a road course -- which isn't Smith's specialty. The findings from Road America may pay dividends with road course events at Watkins Glen International and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course looming in consecutive weeks in August.
"That was an area where people have maybe highlighted, thinking that the 7 car wouldn't have speed, and we were contending for top-five and even passing for the lead at one point in the race," Smith said. "I would then just say, going to Mid?Ohio and going to Watkins Glen, that guys aren't going to take that for granted anymore that they can make points up on us. Instead, that's going to be an area where we're going to be looking to gain points further on down the road."
Smith has won twice this season, at Talladega and Michigan, and has held the series lead for seven consecutive race weekends. He now ventures back into more familiar territory -- an intermediate layout Friday night at Kentucky, followed by a race at 2.5-mile Daytona, where he was going for the lead on the final lap before being involved in a multi-car accident.
"We've got a very confident group here, and that includes myself as a driver in not only what my capabilities are, but also what the capabilities of this race team are. We're to the point now that the cars they've been putting under me this year, I know what to expect," he said.
"I know what's going to happen week in and week out with how they're going to feel right off the truck, and how our weekend is going to flow and how we're going to adjust and what kind of speed we're going to have in the race. With that said, I think that confidence is almost as important as the momentum. I feel like we can make up for any up or down momentum swings because we're that confident as a race team, and we believe that much in what we're doing at JR Motorsports."
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