The last time Regan Smith ran a competitive lap at Talladega Superspeedway, he thought he had won his first NASCAR Sprint Cup race.
In last October's Cup event at the 2.66-mile track, Smith beat Tony Stewart to the finish line, only to have NASCAR deny him the victory because he had passed Stewart below the yellow line between the racing surface and the apron as the cars approached the chequered flag.
Stewart was awarded the victory, and Smith was credited with an 18th-place finish, as the last car on the lead lap.
It's understandable, therefore, that Smith felt squeamish Saturday as he contemplated dipping below that same yellow line to complete his qualifying lap for Sunday's Aaron's 499. The only difference is that, in qualifying, there's no one to pass, so the move is legal.
“Normally, qualifying at Talladega is not a big deal; you're not nervous, whatever,” Smith said, “I got off turn four, and my knees started shaking a little bit and my hands were clinched up, because I knew I wanted to go down to the apron, but I wasn't quite sure if I was supposed to or not. I went and did it anyway.”
Running a limited schedule this year, Smith was fastest among drivers required to qualify for the Aaron's 499 on speed. He claimed the sixth-place starting position at 187.897mph.
by Reid Spencer
Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service