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Tag:Darlington Raceway
Posted on: May 9, 2011 11:38 am
 
Posted on: May 9, 2011 6:36 am
 

Video of the Day: Busch, Harvick Fireworks

Posted by Pete Pistone

Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick were the center of attention after the checkered flag flew in Saturday night's Showtime Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway:





Posted on: May 8, 2011 9:30 am
 

Smith, team post Darlington comments

Posted by Pete Pistone

We have a first-time winner in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Regan Smith. He's joined by team general manager Joe Garone and crew chief Pete Rondeau. With the win tonight, he also qualifies for the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup All-Star Race. Congratulations to that.           

REGAN SMITH: Thank you.           

KERRY THARP: Great win out there tonight. Talk about it.           

REGAN SMITH: We did think about the All-Star Race after the race on the cool-down lap saying, I can't believe we just won this race. I think I said something about the All-Star Race. I can't remember.           

It was a good race for us. I'm happy to be in here and not be in here under qualifying terms because that's usually when I get to see anybody in here. First and foremost, this is a pleasant change for me.           

The car was good all night. I don't think we made any big adjustments. There was a couple points where I was winding pretty hardcore. That's typical for me anywhere. Pete and the guys made some good calls. We got up to six at one point the old-fashioned way: driving up there. We had good pit stops. Those guys did a great job. The opportunity presented itself.           

Pete and I were talking about it. The decision is his a hundred percent. The way our stuff works is whatever he tells me to do, I do. I did mention, I said, Man, I think this thing would be good with clean air. That's all he needed to hear to make the call to stay out. That won the race for us right there.           

We were fortunate on the last restart. I spun the tires on the second-to-last restart. The tires hooked up good. When we cleared Carl going into one, I thought, That's good, at least we'll finish second in this thing, I won't have to worry about any of the other guys on fresh tire. When he didn't catch me at the white flag and I still had a car length gap at the white flag, I thought, I'm going to run another qualifying lap here, we might have a chance at this thing.           

I hit the fence at turn two. How hard was it? I thought I hit it hard, anyways. Never checked it up. Sailed off into three. I had been on the bottom all night long. My game plan was to stick with the bottom. I figured if he passes me with his tires on the outside, that's all right. I sailed off in there, drove it deeper than I wanted to. I got tight in the middle. I saw he drove off pretty deep, which I expected him to do. He got tight at the same time. I don't know if the air off my car got him or what. He wasn't able to make the run and we won the Southern 500. That's pretty awesome.           

KERRY THARP: Pete, talk about the decision and stay out there towards the end of the race.           

PETE RONDEAU: It's one of them things you think about a lot, but then it's a split-second decision. Sometimes you make out well with it, sometimes you don't. I was leaning one way, as it was. I said, What the heck, we'll ask Regan where he's headed. He said we were both on the same page.  All right, let's go for it. He's the one driving it. He wants some clean air, we'll give him some clean air. He willed it.           

He did a great job all night right from the start. We started off, made a few adjustments. We'll tell him now we ended up right where we were at the start of the race.           

REGAN SMITH: That's how it usually works (laughter).           

KERRY THARP: Joe, talk about how meaningful this win is tonight, Colorado race team. Talk about what it means not only for your organization but for other organizations that might be similar to what you have.           

JOE GARONE: Well, for our organization, obviously it means everything. We've been six years building this team and literally started from scratch. I can tell you a lot of people, and I can't say I wasn't with them when Barney Visser wanted it run out of Colorado, that we might just be crazy. It's been a long road.           

After the second or third year we started realizing we can compete in Cup, we can do a good job, get ourselves in a position to win races. Tonight just solidifies all that hard work and shows the racing community that you can win races outside of the normal North Carolina area.           

KERRY THARP: We'll take questions now for Joe, Pete or Regan.            

Q. Regan, talk about your emotions as you took the checkered flag and the cool-down lap.           

REGAN SMITH: There were a lot of emotions. I was trying to get them all out at that point so I didn't show it too much on TV there. But I couldn't help it. It's Mother's Day weekend. My mom is not here. She's in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. She left Thursday, about the same time I left to come down here, to help out with the recovery efforts and save some animals down there. She's down there doing that. She's always been there for all my wins, all my races, everything. She doesn't miss too many of them. To not have her here, that got me choked up a little. It is now, too.           

Outside of that, there's been so many ups and downs for my career, so many points where you think, Man, what am I doing? What's the next move? I think it's obvious now the best thing that happened to me was the end of the '08 season I didn't have a drive, I didn't have a ride, got hooked up with Barney and Joe and Furniture Row Racing. There's a lot of times the guys could have got down on me last year, this year, some races this year, but everybody stuck behind me and has given me the support that I needed as a driver to keep my head on straight.           

I'll be honest with you. When I walked to the car today, I literally thought we could win the race. I think that every week when we walk to the car. The difference was this week, we did.           

It's very special. I couldn't think of a better way to do it with the things I've been through with a team out of Colorado. I'm pretty close to having a house bought out there. Solidifies my roots out there a little more.           

Man, it's very special.           

Q. Regan, when is the last time you won anything? I know this is your first NASCAR win.           

REGAN SMITH: It's been a while (laughter).            

Q. What series was it in? And can you further describe this journey in more detail, what a driver goes through when they're trying? It's like you were almost hitting your head against the wall. It's a single-car operation, at times a part-time deal.           

REGAN SMITH: Yeah, certainly. Last major win I had was '08, a late model race up in Canada, the IWK 250, one of the bigger races they run. I made a comment earlier, this isn't a knock on Talladega at all, but I would trade all of them for one win in the Southern 500. This is so special. We were looking at the names and faces on the trophy. You think about it. My face is going to be right there next to these guys and it's going to be there forever. You can't change that. It certainly means a lot to me.           

As for the highs and lows, you know, the year, '08, my rookie season, even though we won the Rookie-of-the-Year deal, it wasn't the type of year you want to have by any means. I've run, I don't know, a hundred-some races, you guys probably know better than I do, and haven't had a top five. Recently got my first top 10. To just kind of come out and end up with a win, it's a good way to get your first top five, I suppose.           

We know we've got fast racecars and we felt like we had fast racecars and we put it together tonight basically. There was a lot of stuff we said we had to put together. The little stuff was good. Pit stops were good, adjustments were good, I was getting on and off pit road good. There were so many little things that can hamper a race.           

Me personally, I understand that stuff better. Hopefully it helps us down the road.           

The low point, you know, I can't say there's a low point. There's been a lot of times when I think, What if I don't get to race in another Cup race again? As a driver, you never know when your last race is going to be.           

Last year I was thinking, Maybe they're going to fire me, I hope not. But who knows what is going to happen. When we had struggles at different points in the season, last year the lowest point was I broke my wrist at Sonoma and raced at Loudon with it broke completely, didn't have it fixed. I got out of the car, it hurt really bad, it was a horrible day. We were so far off the pace. Probably one of the worst races I personally ever have driven.           

From that point on, we started rebounding again. Ever since the Chicago race, even though some of the finishes don't show it, we've been running way more competitive. It's just been uphill from there, or downhill, I don't know how you look at it.            

Q. (No microphone.)           

REGAN SMITH: I have. I didn't get too many words out of her but, I love you, boohoo, lots of tears and crying. She was very excited. If I know her, she's going to enjoy a Bacardi and diet Coke tonight. If it's in a tent, pickup truck, hotel. This is funny. I believe she was staying with Bonnie Allison down there. Don't quote me on that, but I believe that's where she was staying most of the time when she was down there. I'm sure she's celebrating.            

Q. In a year where Trevor Bayne won the Daytona 500, people are going to find this a Cinderella victory. Talk about that coming.           

REGAN SMITH: Yeah, no, you know what, I'm fine with that. Ryan grabbed me and said, You're 500-to-1 odds in Vegas. Hopefully somebody made some money tonight (laughter).           

I watched Trevor win that race. We had a strong racecar. Quite honestly, I felt like we could have won the 500 just as easily. You're happy for Trevor. It was so cool to see. There's a part of you that thinks, That could have been us. That's a big race. We come to the next biggest race, the Southern 500. You have the Daytona 500, the Southern 500, the Coke 600, and the Brickyard. Those are the four. To come here and beat a guy like Carl Edwards. It's incredible. Cinderella story. Whatever is wrote about it, I'm perfectly fine with it. I don't care, because we still get a trophy            

Q. It's your first win, but not the first time you've taken the checkered flag in Cup. Do you feel this is vindication for what happened at Talladega? Did you feel like you were going to get that back eventually?           

REGAN SMITH: You know what, I'll be honest with you, I didn't know if I was ever going to get it back. To get it back at Darlington, absolutely it's vindication. Winning here to me means more to me than that win could have ever meant. With this team, with the hard work, racing out of Colorado, the things that have gone on, everybody said for how long, You can't race outside of Charlotte, the 20-mile radius where all the teams are, you can't do it. We've been doing it every week.           

We've been doing it good for a while, but now everybody is going to notice how good we're doing it. I don't think I'll go to bed tonight thinking about Talladega, that's for sure (laughter).           

Q. Regan, do you dare allow yourself to think, Chase wild card is on the table now? Do you think that far ahead?           

REGAN SMITH: We've been thinking about that for three or four weeks now, since we dug the hole in points, we've had that talk already. We need to take chances like we did tonight and try to sneak some wins out. Our main focus was, Let's try and sneak as many wins as we can and get back in the 20 points. We had a big hole to dig out of. That's going to be our goal. We get another win, get back into the top 20, you could make the Chase and use that system to your advantage.           

I think that's something you don't want to be in the position where you have to use that system to your advantage, you just want to be in the top 10. But it's there. Since we've had the bad luck we had at the start of the year, we're going to try and use it.            

Q. Joe, have you talked to Barney yet? I want to know what his feeling is. So many times it was, We're going to cut back to this, then go back up. The fact he believed in all you guys. And, Pete, what kind of vindication is this for the guy that was known as Dale Jr.'s other crew chief?           

JOE GARONE: I did talk to Barney. Kind of just a quick funny story. Last call, when we decided to stay out, I sent a quick text to him. Normally he's with us. This was just a disclaimer for Pete. I asked him what he would do. He said, Stay out. So I figured if it went bad, I could always say, It was Barney's decision, so Pete was covered (smiling).           

This is a big deal for Barney. Not just for Barney, but Furniture Row Companies, which consists of Denver Mattress, Sofa Mart, Bedroom Expressions and Oak Express. For standing behind the team, it's been a long road.           

Everyone knows how tough this sport is at the Cup level. They've gone over the highs and the lows and just stuck behind us. Just like Regan was staying about what we've done with him, our owner, Barney, has done with us.           

This is just a great time for him, really excited for him and the whole company.           

PETE RONDEAU: I don't have any vindication from that few years back. I guess a lot of things go around, some come around. This just came around. I'm Regan Smith's crew chief now, so that part there has gone by.            

Q. Regan, where would you have put Darlington on the list of places where you thought you would get your first win?           

REGAN SMITH: Well, places where I would like to get my first win, probably near the top, the top two or three for sure. Of places where I thought I would get my first win, it was probably at the bottom because it's such a tough racetrack.           

We talked before the race. We had a game plan. It was to keep the right side clean. If it meant racing at 80% until the end of the race, the last 25, 50 laps, whatever it was, that's what we needed to do. And it worked. I kept the right side clean all night long. I kept coming up on cars, I would look at them, see their right side was tore off. That's one we'd be able to get.           

The only one that went past me that his right side was obliterated was Kyle Busch, and that's normal for Kyle Busch at this racetrack. He's something else.           

But, you know, it's very special. Any win is special. This one is even more special. To get the first one here, I think they were giving me the stats, I think they said there's only been six first-time winners here, and the last one was '88. It's certainly a big deal.           

It's like I said earlier, you walk out to the car believing you're going to win the race, but sometimes you think, If we get a top 10, too, that's what we need to survive. I think this is a race we're capable of winning, but let's survive. We survived and we won.            

Q. Regan, the research is several years old, but I think it's still valid. Darlington is far beyond any other track in terms of the exclusivity of its winners. The only drivers that have ever won here and not won a number of other races is Larry Frank in '62 and Lake Speed in '88. From understanding this track, you must understand the difficulty of it. I just wondered if you had a chance to think much about that?           

REGAN SMITH: I certainly thought about it. I thought about it when I was standing in Victory Lane and reading the trophy. Pete and I, all of us, were sitting there looking at the trophy thinking, Man, this is special. The next step for us as a team is to get that second win. Obviously now we've gotten the taste of how good this feels, you don't ever want to lose that taste.           

The next step is to get the second win and keep working hard. I certainly don't want to go anywhere near the list of guys that this is their only win.      

We're going to work just as hard to get the next one as we have to get this one, see where that takes us.            

Q. Are you still working with Josh at all? He's back at school. Have you been in contact?           

REGAN SMITH: I haven't talked to him yet. I haven't gotten to my phone yet to be honest with you. I'm sure there's a lot of text messages I'm going to have to reply to and calls I have to make back. I'm sure Josh is one of them.           

I talked to him Friday morning. Every Friday morning before I go on the racetrack, we look over data and talk to him. He's certainly been a big help to me from the standpoint of showing me some stuff that I can do to help out the guys when I'm giving them feedback and information.           

It's something that we did last year and it worked last year at the end of the year. We said, Let's stick with it this year. I think it's worked.           

There's been a lot of times we pulled out the data sheets and said, That point there is where the car is doing something. It helps Pete and Cole to do the right things to the racecars. I'm sure I'll be talking to him later at some point tonight.            

Q. On the last restart, Brad Keselowski said he was pushing you from behind. Did that help your tires hook up to get you out in front of Carl? It seemed like almost the entire night you were pretty well away from the wall going through three and four. Did you specifically set your car up to keep it away from that wall?           

REGAN SMITH: We did. I've watched Kyle race here and win here with the right side almost all tore off. I wasn't saying that in a bad way.           

Brad did give me a shove, probably three-quarters of the way down the front straightaway. It was just enough of a boost to get me that next little step past Carl to where I could run my line through one and two. If I couldn't have done that, I don't think we could have had the momentum to win. So Brad certainly helped me right there. He kind of preoccupied Carl for that corner and it gave me those two car lengths to stretch it out.          

He's a guy that has had his first win, he knows how special it feels, Nationwide races, too. He's had that first Cup win. You really can't describe it. I didn't know how to do the burnouts. I said, I heard you're supposed to crank a lot of front brake to it. I hope it looked okay. I turned around and wanted to salute the fans because they're the reason we do this.            

Q. Pete, on the last restart you walked him through on the radio the last two laps. Were you as nervous as he was? What were you thinking?           

PETE RONDEAU: I wasn't too nervous with him doing it. Generally you get a guy with the drive and the desire to do this, they get to the front, they're at the front even if they can just sniff it, they're going to drive the wheels off of it. Obviously, you can see that.           

I didn't see what he did on the backstretch until I was in Victory Lane. They showed me the tape of him coming off of turn two jacked up, out of shape.           

REGAN SMITH: Probably good you didn't see it (laughter).           

PETE RONDEAU: No, I didn't get nervous about it. Regan, he knows what he's doing there. We just let him do his thing.            

Q. Joe, there's a lot of people who can celebrate with this victory. You have a pit crew from Stewart Haas Racing, you have chassis from Richard Childress, ECR engines. Is there a better example of true teamwork than this victory tonight? Would you say this would classify as a point that the little guy can still win?           

JOE GARONE: Well, I think it does classify that. It is part of the structure for how the little guy does business in Cup. You need partners. You need to have those relationships not just in place, but they have to be good relationships. I can't even express how good our relationship is with RCR, how well they work with us, the information flow between us. It's second to none.           

Stewart/Haas, this is new for us this year with them. I can tell you the pit stops were rocky in the beginning. They have flat gone to work with Pete and the guys. Bobby Hutchens is over there all the time sweating bullets when the stops aren't good. I mean, it is good.           

Remember when we used to race and run late models on Saturday night, somebody would brake, all the guys would be over there trying to help you, if you went and beat them, you're in a fistfight afterwards. That's what it's like for us. Kind of cool to have that support from other racing teams.           

Q. Joe, what are the numbers for the little guy? How many overall employees do you have? How many are based in Colorado? Do you have any based in Charlotte?           

JOE GARONE: We have 64 employees total. The pit crew is based in Colorado, so there's six with an additional two that handle some of the logistics. One of them is actually our spotter, Clayton Hughes, so he still lives in North Carolina.            

Q. Do you have a satellite thing at all in Charlotte?           

JOE GARONE: We don't have a satellite shop. We have a weigh station, I guess you'd call it, which is Clayton's garage at his house. We have a tractor-trailer that does a material run for furniture back to North Carolina every week. What we did is we took the back half of that and built some special containers. That's how we transport our engines and transmissions back and forth. They make a stop at Clayton's. They unload them and load them. That's kind of how we do it.            

Q. Regan, as good as this feels right now, you probably are aware of some of the stuff that went on behind you in the aftermath. When the series moves on to Dover and people are talking about Harvick and Busch, Montoya, Newman, is any of that going to diminish what happened here tonight.       

REGAN SMITH: I can honestly tell you I don't have an idea what happened behind me, except Carl Edwards didn't pass me, some of the other details on the restart with Brad and stuff like that, I have no clue what happened in the race other than us winning. You know what, if that's what's talked about next week, so be it. I don't care. It's not going to take away from the feeling I've got right now.           

Quite honestly, it hasn't sunk in, but I think it will sink in tomorrow. I'm not going to go to bed tonight because there's no chance I'll sleep tonight.     

I think the main thing that I'm proud of is what we've done with this team from Colorado. You know, that's the big take-away I get from it. There's been so much work. Like I said, there's been a lot of ups and downs. You certainly have to enjoy the ups when you get them. This is one of them. I'm smart enough to know to enjoy it.           

Q. Joe, are you still with Hendrick cars or was that part of the technical support switch-over with Childress?           

JOE GARONE: We're with Richard Childress racecars. What we do, to be clear, we buy our chassis from Childress and we bring them -- after they're inspected at the R&D center, we bring them to Colorado, we do all the work. They're assembled out there, the bodies are built out there. We have our own seven-post machine. We do all our testing there, research and development. There's some projects we work together with them on in the wind tunnel where we share engineering services.           

Our engine program switched from Hendrick to ECR this year. That put us on the loop to put us on the same platform to understand the racecar from simulation and other areas.            

Q. Regan, something else to think about. Aside from Trevor Bayne, you and Jeff Gordon are the only two guys outside the top 10 in points that have a win. If you can get into the top 20, maybe a wildcard into the Chase. Is that going to affect the way you race the rest of the regular season at all?      

REGAN SMITH: I don't know that it will affect it. That's our goal anyways before this happened. Absolutely, yeah, we got to get back to the top 20. We're going to have to work hard to do that.           

I personally think it's going to take two wins at least to get in based on that system, based on the system the way it is right now. But this is all new to everybody. You never know. It might not take two wins to do that. It might only take one, so we're certainly going to have to focus on that. At the same time we're going to focus on getting another win and taking chances to make that happen. That's all there is to it basically.           

I do have to say something else. I saw something that Darrell Waltrip wrote the other day. He picked us and Menard as possible first-time winners this year. Paul is one of my best friends in the garage area. I thought, Well, that was nice of him to pick us. We've been qualifying real good, but not racing that good. Looks like it was a good pick (laughter).           

Q. I wanted to ask you about how you got through some of those lower points. I don't know if it's the racer's mentality that you don't know any better and you keep pushing forward or you think this day is going to come. How did you fight through that and get to this point?           

REGAN SMITH: I'm not going to lie, there has been, my fiancée over in the corner can vouch for this, there's been some sleepless nights. I've laid there, I can't fall asleep. Might be after a race. I did this wrong, I did that wrong. I'm my own worst critic. I put everything on my shoulders personally. Joe can vouch for that. There's times I'll beat myself down just to pick myself back up, if that sounds right, to feel better about things on Monday or Tuesday after a race.           

I don't know. You're probably right in saying it's a racer's mentality. We all do this because we believe in ourselves and because we believe we can win races, we're good racecar drivers. It's not just when you get to this level. It goes all the way back to when you're racing Saturday nights, you're trying to get an opportunity to get your first Truck start or first Nationwide start. I remember sending out, you know, hundreds of proposals and things like that. I thought, Man, these are cheesy looking. Why am I sending them out? I'm going to send them out anyway.           

I can't begin to say how many people have helped me along the way. To sit here and thank them all, you can't do it, you'd miss somebody. They all know who they are. You do that stuff, you get doors slammed in your face. When I was running Pro Cup, family-owned team, back in the day. Money was tight. You fight and feud sometimes with your family because of it, different things like, that you have different ideas than they do maybe about stuff. It's tough. It's like that for so many people out there right now that are racing tonight, Saturday night. It's not just at this level. It goes all the way back to that level.           

You just got to keep digging and keep your head down. There's people in this garage area, I can pretty much tell you, you can walk up to them and say, Remember when Regan used to call you when he was 16 or 17 years old? Your secretary would say, Regan Smith is on the phone again. He would say, God, tell him I'm not here. I guess the more doors get slammed in your face, the thicker your skin is, the more tough times you have the thicker your skin is.           

Q. (Question regarding the trophy.)           

REGAN SMITH: It's going to sit where I have to walk past it every time I get up in the morning. I can tell you that. It's going to go someplace where I don't miss it at all. Maybe on the center of the coffee table in the living room. I don't know for now.           

I heard Tony Stewart made the comment, Make sure you take the actual Victory Lane trophy home. I asked them if I could take that one home. We'll see how that works out for me.           

KERRY THARP: Regan, Pete, Joe, congratulations. Great win tonight. Terrific story. Wish you all the best the rest of the season.        

REGAN SMITH: Thank you. Thanks for staying so late. Really appreciate that. We're really excited, so thank you.

 

More NASCAR coverage
Posted on: May 8, 2011 9:14 am
 

Edwards, Keselowski post Darlington comments

Posted by Pete Pistone

KERRY THARP: Let's roll right into our post-race press conference. Our third-place finisher is Brad Keselowski. Brad, certainly your best showing of the 2011 season. Have to feel pretty good.

BRAD KESELOWSKI: It was our best finish, but definitely not our best run. We're probably about a 15th-place car. Just kind of played some strategy there at the end and still kind of in the same boat. We've had a couple races where I felt like we were pretty decent. Bristol, so forth, caught some bad breaks.

Today honestly we weren't so good and caught some good breaks, kind of stayed out, made something of that last few restarts, was able to get a third-place finish out of it.

I'm proud of the result. Not really how we got it, but proud of the result. Still we got a long ways to go to be fast and to earn it. We got a lot of work to do, but a good team effort to kind of get a solid finish out of a mediocre day.

KERRY THARP: Questions for Brad.

Q. The decision to stay out on old tires, was that yours or the crew chief?

BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, I kind of had been yelling at Paul all day. At the end he told me to do what I wanted to do. I saw everybody pitting. I kind of figured they would all wreck on one of the last restarts, it would come down to a green-white-checkered. It did. Caught a good break there. There's no guarantees that will happen.

Was able to hold off the 4 car, everybody but the 99 there at the end.

Q. On the restart, you pulled up in front of Carl. What were you looking for right there?

BRAD KESELOWSKI: Which one? The last one?

Q. The last one.

BRAD KESELOWSKI: The last one, basically Regan with his older tires, it was going to be hard for him to get going with the gears. I restarted next to Regan before in the race, saw he was struggling even in normal situations. I timed the restart about a car length or so back, gave him a huge push into turn one, which was enough to get him the drive he needed. That helped him clear the 99. I just fouled him up in the hole, kind of logjammed it, which kept Carl from getting back next to him.

Your thought is to just get all you can and dig and claw. I knew I was no match for Carl. His car had been way faster all night. Had two more tires than what I had, which was zero.

This has always been one of my favorite tracks. I think it was '94, '95, somewhere in there, this racing video game came out called NASCAR Racing. This was the only track I ran.

I don't know, for some reason I always liked it. I always said I had the advantage from that all along, ran well here, at least on the Cup side. I used to race with Denny Hamlin and stuff on the video game. This was one of our favorite places to come. It's that way in the real world, too. Maybe that's why I run here better than some other places.

It's a place I respect. It's a place that you have to respect. It's been good to me.

Q. The restart before that last restart, what did you see? We're looking at 18, 29. Did you see any of that stuff going on?

BRAD KESELOWSKI: No, I didn't see any of the wrecks back there. I'm sure there are some angry people. It's the basic same old thing, kind of what happened last night. You line up a bunch of faster cars. They all kind of lose their heads because they have to make hay real quick. Someone is going to lose out on that deal. Sounds like that's what happened.

KERRY THARP: Brad, good run out there tonight.

BRAD KESELOWSKI: Thank you, guys.

KERRY THARP: Our race runner-up, still our points leader by 23 over Jimmie Johnson is Carl Edwards.

Congratulations. Solid run out there tonight. Talk about how things went out there for you this evening.

CARL EDWARDS: I definitely underestimated that restart a little bit. I saw Regan spin his tires and I heard him pedaling a little. I thought, Don't beat him to the start/finish line. We have an advantage with these tires. I didn't want to lose that way. As soon as I started pedaling to stay even with him, Brad and him locked up, they were gone. Then I was chasing.

Man, I really felt like that was our race to win. We had a great lead that we earned all night. It was unfortunate, we had that yellow.

Regan is a heck of a guy. That's NASCAR racing. As upset as I am to have lost that race, I'm happy for Regan and his accomplishment. But, man, I'll run that one back a few times in my head.

KERRY THARP: Questions for Carl Edwards.

Q. This is the second surprise victor we had after Trevor. Talk about how NASCAR has changed in the last few years.

CARL EDWARDS: I think that's the wrong way to look at this. I think Regan is as good as any driver out there. Those guys have earned what they have. There's a reason they sit not on poles, but they've been out-qualifying everyone. It's just a matter of time before they put a whole race together.

I think, myself included, all of us kind of underestimate them a little bit. But that will occur no longer. Those guys, you know, they got to Victory Lane. This is NASCAR. It's an equal opportunity. If you can do it, then you earn it.

Q. Carl, did you and Bob contemplate staying out when the next to last caution came out? Also, how surprised are you that Regan beat you on old tires?

CARL EDWARDS: I didn't contemplate staying out. I thought about it. But I thought new tires would be such an advantage with 20 or 25 laps. I thought what we did was the right call.

I think if it would have gone green, if we wouldn't have had that caution, if I would have had more than a lap to work Regan over, I think we would have run right by him.

But we didn't get it. It turned into a green-white-checkered. I was surprised. When I drove down into turn three on the last lap, I sincerely planned on driving right by him. His car stuck a lot better than I thought. It surprised me. I really thought it was going to be a drag race to the start/finish line. He stayed out front.

Q. Carl, whether this is accurate, does it just seem sometimes like the most impossible races to win are the very ones that you want the most?

CARL EDWARDS: In the case of Darlington and me, yes, that seems to be true.

From my first trip here, Bobby Hutchens, Jeff Burton, Jack Roush, everyone that helped me get prepared for this race told me how much history there was here. I talked to everyone. I studied tapes. I got help from all these guys.

That first truck race, we were running I mean great, running down Ted Musgrave for the win, we had some trouble. Then one time we were running down Jeff and Greg for the lead in the 500, I think we had an oil pump belt come off or something like that.

Then tonight I let myself for a minute imagine what it would be like to win this race. It felt really good for a minute, but it wasn't meant to be. I'll keep trying. It's sad we have to wait a year to come back here. I love racing here. This is as good as it gets for a driver.

Q. Can you talk about being in close quarters with Keselowski, given your history? Were you happy you kept it together and raced each other cleanly?

CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, I told him after the race I thought he did a really good job, because he did. He gathered it up underneath me. I couldn't see his elbows in there, but I could imagine they were flying all over the place. I was between him and the wall, and I was in a safer spot if something did go wrong, but he did a good job.

Q. You were talking about having the better tires. How much more did aero play into this? Did aero overcome the advantage of the tires?

CARL EDWARDS: That's a very good question. I think that was a big part of it. It seemed aero played a bigger role here than I think it ever has. It was a larger factor in how fast your car went than the difference between the cars. So even if you had a faster car, sometimes you could catch a guy, you just couldn't overcome that bad air that you'd be running in trying to pass him.

There at the end, I think that might have been part of it. Regan did a good job. Looked like he was going to drive into the bottom on three. Let it wash into my path. Did a good job of mirror driving there. Kept my car from having the most grip it could have.

Q. Why was there a University of Georgia decal on your car tonight?

CARL EDWARDS: The folks from Aflac were here. Dan Amos was here. He brought Georgia football and basketball coaches with him. There was a lot of folks pulling from Georgia for that racecar tonight. I wish I could have got the win for them.

Q. You told a story on TV working for Regan Smith's car. Can you go over that story for us.

CARL EDWARDS: I was driving Mike's truck. I had run I think seven races and I couldn't run any more and still hold the rookie eligibility for the next year, so Mike hired Regan to drive at Phoenix. I was kind of heartbroken. I was a racecar driver. I didn't want to go work on that truck while somebody else was driving it.

I went there and I felt kind of honored when it was all over, to have worked with him and met his family. They're really good people. We changed the engine right there in the garage. I just decided, All right, I'm going to go ahead and work, swallow my pride. I'm glad I did because I got to know Regan a little bit better and he's a good guy.

He could have treated me any way and he treated me like gold then, so I got a lot of respect for him.

Q. This is one of the toughest tracks, yet there are more drivers that seem to like it. Can you explain that? He studied video. Did you do any of that?

CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, I think the iRacing stuff can help you here. I think the reason we racecar drivers like this track is because, you know, it's so difficult that the driver can make a difference in the outcome. It seems like it's a real driver's racetrack. If you really dig down deep and do your best, you can make something happen here. That's really fun. As a racecar driver, that's as good as it gets.

Q. You had a history with Brad last year. We saw Montoya and Newman. I guess Montoya was into Jimmie Johnson tonight. Then you saw the Harvick/Busch thing. Are you worried that this thing is getting a little out of hand?

CARL EDWARDS: No. I haven't really paid much attention to the details of everything that's going on. That's the passion of the sport. I've been involved with my fair share of that stuff. I guess I'll just sit back and watch like everybody else and see what happens.

Q. (No microphone.)

CARL EDWARDS: It depends. It is nice to just go out and race and to be upset after the race for finishing second, not being in an altercation with someone. That's kind of nice. But this is racing. You're going to have stuff like that. I think all of us out there know that can happen anytime and we're prepared.

 

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Posted on: May 8, 2011 1:33 am
Edited on: May 8, 2011 8:26 am
 

Speed Read: Showtime Southern 500

By Pete Pistone

  Regan Smith, Driver Of The #78 Furniture Row Companies Chevrolet, Crosses

Showtime Southern 500 Recap

They’ve been racing at Darlington Raceway since 1950. But Saturday night’s Showtime Southern 500 will go down as one of the best in the history of the legendary South Carolina track.

While the race clocked in at just over four hours and included some long stretches of strung out racing around the treacherous 1.366-mile track, the big finish was worth the wait.

Pit road drama, tire strategy, high emotions, fights and an upset winner were all neatly wrapped up in the final stages of Saturday night’s memorable race.

But while the water cooler talk Monday will surely be about the on track and post race scuffle between Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick, the Cinderella story of Regan Smith’s win should be the center of attention.

Complete results

Somehow in this day and age of multi-car super teams and power houses like Hendrick, RCR, Joe Gibbs Racing and Roush dominating the Sprint Cup Series, a little one car team headquartered in Denver, Colorado won one of the sport’s most prestigious races.

Although the Furniture Row team does have an alliance with the Childress organization it is still very much a David battling against a sport filled with Goliaths.

“I don't think anybody realizes how much work has gone into getting this program where it is out of Colorado,” said Smith basking in the glory of his unlikely victory. “(Team presidents) Joe Garone, Barney Visser , all of them. Barney has put a huge, huge investment into NASCAR into this team. I can't be more proud to be driving it.”

Smith was almost here before when an apparent win at Talladega was taken away when NASCAR ruled he had dipped below the yellow out of bounds line and the victory was given to Tony Stewart.

But he doesn’t look at his accomplishment Saturday night as any kind of vindication. According to Smith winning at Darlington is just better.

“It feels a lot different at the end of the day when you say 'Hey, I won a race at Darlington,'” he said. “The names that have won here...the Pearsons, Yarboroughs and on and on, you name it. I was sitting behind some of those guys today and I was thinking 'Man, these guys are pretty awesome. They are legendary'. I don't know if my name deserves to be next to them, but after tonight, maybe it does."

Smith’s performance showed he most definitely belongs on the list of legends who have won at NASCAR’s top level.

It might take a little time for the young driver to believe it but it has every right to sink in even if it doesn’t happen for a while.

“We've got a neat trophy now,” he said. “Legends win this race, I'm not supposed to win this race. I've never even had a top five. I guess that shows in this series, anybody can win on any given Sunday."

Or Saturday night.

 

RISERS

Brad Keselowski

Finally something for the Penske Racing to feel good about on the Sprint Cup Series side of the house. While the defending Nationwide Series champion has been okay on the Junior Circuit, he’s struggled big time in the Miller Lite Dodge until Saturday night. A decision to stay out and not pit for tires at the end of the race proved to be a wise one and Keselowski came home third.

Kasey Kahne

Showed that his solid run last week in Richmond was not a fluke with a pole-winning performance to start the weekend and an effort that nearly netted him his first win of 2011. Kahne has to be considered a candidate for the Chase this year at least as a Wild Card and looks like he’ll be in the mix for wins in the coming months as he helps showcase the Team Red Bull ride for 2010.

Martin Truex Jr.

Things looked bleak for Truex when he spun trying to come into the pits, an embarrassing move in light of his radio blow up last weekend that caused a shake up on the No. 56 team’s pit road personnel. But he recovered nicely and drove a very fast race car back to the front half of the field to score a very respectable tenth place finish.

 

FALLERS

Joey Logano

Any memory of last year’s stellar run to close the season has been forgotten by the seemingly constant struggles of 2011. Logano got tapped and spun into the inside pit wall to ruin his night and hand him yet another disappointing finish and a 35th to show for his effort.

Jeff Burton

The veteran can share a lot of what Logano is going through with a tough opening ten races of 2011 as well. This time it was an overheating issue that cooked Burton’s engine and knocked him out with a dismal 33rd place finish.

Jimmie Johnson

Don’t usually see the five-time champion listed in this category but a painful night that was probably worse than the 15th place finish Johnson earned. Got spun out early after contact from Juan Pablo Montoya only to work his way back to the lead lap and get penalized late in the race for a missing lug nut after a trip to pit road. The radio communication between Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus was especially chippy Saturday night with all the frustration.

 

RADIO WAVES

(Choice comments and communications from drivers and crew chiefs) 

“Sorry, I locked the front tires. He braked really early, and I locked the front trying to avoid him. Did he hit anything?" – Juan Pablo Montoya asking about Jimmie Johnson

"That boy (Montoya) can't stay away from controversy, can he?" – Tony Stewart

"It's a big old pile of @#%^. Who was that? Damn." – Dale Earnhardt Jr. surveying the damage from Brian Vickers’ car

“I'm gonna have to turn my radio off now" – a frustrated Kurt Busch

“Just can't wait to get out of here. Nature of the beast, there's no room to race at this place.” – Clint Bowyer

 

RACE RATING

On a scale of one to five "Pistone Pistons" I’ll give Saturday night’s Showtime Southern 500 a four. A 500-mile race at Darlington Raceway is a very long proposition and Saturday’s race as expected had long stretches of tedium. But like so many other races this year the best was yet to come and the closing laps provided enough mayhem, drama and high emotion for a month’s worth of racing. Tempers flared and a surprise winner emerged to make the 2011 edition of the Southern 500 one of the best in the storied track’s history.

 

DOWN THE ROAD

A week off from night racing and a Sunday afternoon trip to Dover International Speedway is next up for the Sprint Cup Series. “The Monster Mile” usually provides one of the season’s most grueling challenges and the one-mile concrete track will most likely live up to its name and make the garage area a busy place.

 

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Posted on: May 7, 2011 10:11 am
 

Video of the Day: Elliott at Darlington

Posted by Pete Pistone

Bill Elliott's stellar career included great success at Darlington Raceway where he became the first driver to win the Winston Million bonus in 1985 with his victory in the Southern 500. "Awesome Bill from Dawsonville" also had other special memories at the legendary South Carolina track:





Posted on: May 6, 2011 7:45 pm
Edited on: May 6, 2011 7:45 pm
 

Kahne speeds to Darlington pole

Posted by Pete Pistone

Kasey Kahne earned his 21st career Sprint Cup Series pole when he claimed the top spot for Saturday night's Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway:

Southern 500 Starting Line-up

Kasey Kahne won the Coors Light Pole Award for the 62nd Annual SHOWTIME Southern 500 with a lap of 27.131 seconds, 181.254 mph a new track record. The previous record was held by Jamie 

McMurray 180.37 mph (05/08/2010).

This is his 21st pole in 262 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races.

This is his first pole and fifth top-10 start in 2011.

This is his fourth pole in nine races at Darlington Raceway.

Ryan Newman (second) posted his fourth top-10 start of 2011 and his 10th in 13 races at Darlington Raceway.

Denny Hamlin (third) posted his fourth top-10 start at Darlington Raceway.  It is his third in ten races this season.

Andy Lally (45th) was the fastest qualifying rookie. 

 

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Posted on: May 6, 2011 5:55 pm
Edited on: May 7, 2011 8:27 am
 

Hylton provides age old problem

By Pete Pistone

James Hylton has become the oldest driver to make the field in NASCAR's top three divisions with his start in Friday night's Nationwide Series Royal Purple 200 at Darlington Raceway. The 76-year-old Hylton, who started his first NASCAR race in 1964, will shatter the mark he previously set when he took the green flag at age 73 three year ago in a Nationwide Series race in 2008.

Some are applauding the record being set by the affable Hylton, who has been one of the sport's long-time independent drivers and deserves credit for the time he's given to NASCAR.

But the time to walk away has come.

There's a bit of a credibility factor in my opinion that comes into play with having a 76-year-old participant in what is considered a major league level sport.

Sure you can point to guys like Gordie Howe and Chris Chelios in the NHL or baseball's Jamie Moyer as athletes who performed well much later in life. But we're talking about guys in their 40's and 50's. Hylton has them beat by at least a couple of decades.

While Hylton has certainly shown he's been capable over the years of competing at even the top level of stock car racing in the Sprint Cup Series, how wise is it to have someone at his advanced age driving at speeds in excess of 180 mph?

Actually that won't be the case Friday night unless Hylton picks things up drastically. In Friday's only Nationwide Series practice session he was almost 30 mph slower than Kyle Busch who led the speed charts.

NASCAR does have a minimum speed requirement during a race and if Hylton follows his practice performance once the green flag flies he'll be black flagged out of the event.

But safety should be paramount at all times and allowing Hylton to compete has potential disaster written all over it.

Let's be clear. I'm not prejudice against anyone's age and believe everyone should have an equal right to do whatever they want no matter how many candles are on their birthday cake.

But that has its limits and driving a high speed stock car is one of them.

There can be no argument that no matter how sharp a 76-year-old man James Hylton may be, his reflexes and athleticism are nowhere near the younger drivers like Busch, Denny Hamlin, Kasey Kahne and the rest of the field in tonight's Nationwide Series race.

I watched in horror last year when a special legends exhibition race at Bristol ended in a horrific crash that saw Larry Pearson nearly lose his life when he was t-boned at full speed by 71-year-old Charlie Glotzbach. And that race featured late model stock cars on a half mile track not the more powerful Nationwide machines on a much larger - and thus faster -track like Darlington.

Darlington is one of the most feared tracks in NASCAR and drivers half Hylton's age have expressed their concerns about racing on the narrow and lightning-fast speedway.

It seems like a recipe for disaster.

I'm not sure what the answer is and whether NASCAR should simply impose an age restriction or put drivers over a certain age through a test of some kind, similar in nature to what young pilots do in a rookie test session.

But it's a situation that needs addressing and is riddled with possible disaster.

For more NASCAR news, rumors and analysis, follow @ppistone   on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.     


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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com