The Frontstretch: Regan Smith Driver Diary: Fuel Mileage, The Value of Farm America and a Chase Prediction by Regan Smith -- Thursday October 13, 2011

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Fuel mileage seems to be the name of the game in 2011 and it played out again a few weeks ago in New Hampshire. We ran into the same scenario there back in the summer and it didn’t work out well for our Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet. Fortunately, I was able to learn a lot from that experience and we had a much better result the second time around.

This time, I went into fuel saving mode earlier as we started to save for a potential green-white-checker ending. What was kind of odd is that on some laps, while I was in fuel conservation mode, I ended up going quicker than when I was full out. That tends to happen a lot with these cars, you think you put down a terrible lap and it ends up to be one of your quicker ones. Anyway, we had about a 10th to 15th place car and finished 10th where as last time, we had a car that was just as fast but ran out of fuel and finished 33rd. So I think it’s one of those deals we can go back to and feel confident that we can do well in a fuel strategy situation at New Hampshire, which is typically not one of our better racetracks.

We had a decent car at Kansas but a pit road speeding penalty ended our chances of coming home with a solid finish. There was nothing questionable about the call so I’m not arguing that. What confuses me is that there was one point on pit road where I thought I was just barely over the limit. What you do in those situations is check up so your speed evens out accordingly. The problem is that this time, I was over the limit coming into the pits and I thought if anything, I might have messed up coming out. There are times when the enforcement of speed is confusing on pit entry because we are not always sure if the timing loop starts at the cone, before the cone or some place else. All things considered though, I think the system is fair. It is just that we are pushing it so close that the slightest driver error or tachometer discrepancy will put us over the edge of the limit.

Though Furniture Row Racing is still learning, their on-track performance has been markedly stronger in 2011.

The entire team was excited to have Farm America back on the car as one of our associate sponsors in Kansas. They are a great organization that represents a cause that I really believe in, which is stressing the importance of keeping food production in America. When they sponsor us, it gives us the opportunity to help them relay that message to the nation and I am proud to be a part of it. I think that a lot of industries have been hurt by unfair practices, especially when they have to compete in pricing. One of the most valuable resources we have is our food and Farm America wants to make sure that we as a nation do not lose sight of that. We’ve been fortunate that other companies , such as Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizer who believe in this effort, have become involved in the program through the race team. Barney Visser, our team owner and Furniture Row co-founder is on board as he has witnessed first hand what can happen when going up against foreign competition.

The partnership we have formed with Farm America benefits us just as much as the national platform we provide helps them. Just like any other company or race team, we want to grow and find other companies to work with us and assist in accomplishing those goals. Whether it’s for the No. 78 car or a new second team, we’re certainly looking for additional partners to work with. I have enjoyed speaking on behalf of Farm America and have really learned a lot through our partnership with them and I look forward to becoming just as involved with other partners as our team continues to evolve. I believe that Furniture Row Racing has a lot to offer any potential sponsor that is willing to work with us.

We just tested on the new surface and configuration at Phoenix International Raceway and there are definitely some noticeable differences in the way that you drive the track. I think Jeff Burton put it best when he told me that in his opinion, it is still Phoenix, but it is a different racetrack. In other words, there are still similarities, but we’re not going to be able to drive it the same way that we have in the past. There is also the concern, as there is at all tracks when they are first paved, that there will only be one groove of racing. It widened out to almost a groove and a half while we were testing there so I think that will continue to improve. It’s going to make for a different race than we’re used to when we go there next month. Don’t be surprised if you see some different faces running up front that normally don’t at that place.

Well, we’re four races into the Chase and it is playing out just like I thought it would. I picked Jimmie Johnson right from the start and I still think he’s going to be the guy to beat. He ran into some issues early on but has recovered and we’re coming up on some tracks where I expect him to be in the top two or three. I think there are going to be more guys within striking distance to him at Homestead than there was last year but in the end, I’m going with Jimmie.

As many of you know by now, I’m a huge hockey fan so I’m pretty psyched that the start of a new season is here. Even though I am living in Avalanche country, I am still loyal to my Hurricanes and I have to tell you, I’m nervous for my team. They are young, but talented this year. When you have that kind of roster, it usually takes a good part of the season to develop chemistry and hopefully come on strong at the end of the season. I think they have real depth at the goalie position this year and that’s a good sign, but they need to score and they’re having trouble with that so far. I’ll be sharing more thoughts on my blog soon so keep an eye out for that on carolinahurricanes.com.

Thanks once again for all of your support this season. We’re definitely keeping our momentum going towards the end of this season and could not have done it without you, the fans!

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