ThatsRacin

NASCAR driver Regan Smith focused on 2015 title, not 2016 ride

NASCAR driver Regan Smith is looking to add an Xfinity series championship to his resume as he looks for a 2016 contract, but says living in the present will help secure that future.
NASCAR driver Regan Smith is looking to add an Xfinity series championship to his resume as he looks for a 2016 contract, but says living in the present will help secure that future. AP

Regan Smith doesn’t know who he’ll be driving for next year, and at this point he doesn’t really care.

What Smith is focused on is closing out the 2015 NASCAR Xfinity Series season with a run of good finishes – and possibly a series championship.

Smith, who drives for NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s JR Motorsports team, sits third in the Xfinity Series standings entering Friday night’s Drive for the Cure 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

He is 36 points behind series leader Chris Buescher (1,018-982), and 12 back of JRM teammate and defending series champ Chase Elliott (994) with five races remaining.

“We have to have a lot of things happen between now and Homestead – things that have to go perfect, and go in our favor,” Smith said Thursday. “The only thing we can control is how well we run. If we go out there and focus on running as well as we can every week, how things shake out is how they shake out.

“The 60 car (Buescher) has a decent lead right now, there’s no denying that, but the pressure is going to get a little more on him as it goes further and further to the end of the season.”

Smith’s recent surge actually began after the May race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, according to Smith’s crew chief, Jason Burdett.

“We started the year pretty good, but we were trying things to get better,” Burdett said. “When we came here, we finished fourth, but we didn’t run that good all day. So we went back to center, so to speak, and tried a different direction.

“The guys at the shop did a really good job of going through and picking out things that we had done to the cars. We made sure we had the cars where we really wanted them, to start over and gear up for this last third of the year.”

That work has made Smith the series’ hottest driver over the past three months. He’s won twice – on the Mid-Ohio road course and last week’s race at Dover, Del. – and finished outside the top 10 only twice in the past 14 races.

That run and Smith’s racing resume – he’s won on the Sprint Cup Series (at Darlington in 2011), and has Xfinity Series wins at Daytona, Homestead, Talladega and Michigan – have made him an attractive option to team owners.

An Xfinity Series championship would only add to that.

“It wouldn’t hurt by any means,” said Smith, who finished second to Elliott in the series standings last year. “Everybody in the room knows it’s ‘silly season,’ and people are trying to figure out what they’re going to be doing next year.

“But I’m very fortunate to be with a strong race team right now, a team that has a shot at the title if we do things right over the next five weeks. That’s what I’m focused on.

“Next year is 2016; we’re going to worry about 2015 right now.”

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