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Regan Smith holds Nationwide Series lead heading to Chicago

Elliott Sadler (11) gets sideways as Regan Smith (left) Trevor Bayne (top) Matt Kenseth (18) pass safely during NASCAR Nationwide

Elliott Sadler (11) gets sideways as Regan Smith (left), Trevor Bayne (top) and Matt Kenseth (18) pass safely during the NASCAR Nationwide Series race July 13 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H. | Mary Schwalm/AP

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NASCAR driver Regan Smith leads the Nationwide Series standings by five points over Sam Hornish Jr. USA TODAY Sports’ Jeff Gluck spoke with Smith, who is scheduled to run at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet on Sunday:

Q: From what you can tell, whose driving style is the most similar to yours?

I’m not sure, I’ve looked at a lot of telemetry from different drivers, and everyone has got their own little styles and characteristics and things they do.

So I don’t know. I don’t have a good answer for that.

We’re off to a good start here.

Yeah, that’s why you didn’t do one of these with me last year (laughs, then calls for crew chief Greg Ives). Hey, Greg?

Greg Ives: Hey.

Smith: Whose driving style am I closest to? Who do I drive like?

Ives: Probably Jeff (Gordon).

Smith: I was kind of thinking him, because I’ve looked at a lot of his data before — but I didn’t really want to compare myself to him.

Ives: Yeah, I think Jeff. Maybe a little of Dale (Earnhardt Jr.), too.

Smith: There you go, I got you an expert opinion.

Q: That’s better. Do you collect any of your own memorabilia, such as diecasts, helmets or firesuits?

A: Yeah, I love that kind of stuff. I think it’s memories and things you’ll want someday. If you ever have kids, you’ll want to be able to show them that stuff and hand that down to them. Just as memories. You never know how long you can do this stuff for, so I try to capture as much of it as I can.

Q: What percent of overall success in NASCAR has to do with the driver, what percent is the car and what percent is luck?

A: Well recently, I’d say luck is a big part of it. It’s maybe 40 (PERCENT) car, 40 (PERCENT) driver, 20 (PERCENT) luck. If you asked me two weeks ago, I’d probably say 5(PERCENT) luck. But lately, it seems higher.

Q: What person outside your family has done the most for your racing career?

A: If I had to look back, I would say the one person was a guy named Keith Titus in New York. He gave me my first microd to go and get started racing — he and my dad were very close. They were best friends growing up. He gave a microd to my dad and said, “Go get him ready, get him started racing.” That’s kind of how it all started. I’d say he did the most, strictly because he was an influential part of me getting started.

Q: You come into contact with a lot of people on a given race weekend — your team, sponsors, media, fans — so with all that going on, how do you decide how to divide the time between them?

A: The time before practice — let’s say an hour or half-hour before — is 100 (PERCENT) committed to my guys when I get to the hauler. And the hour after practice — or however long it takes to debrief and give Greg all the information he needs — is 100 (PERCENT) devoted to them.

The rest of the time, if I’m out walking around and a fan sees me and wants an autograph, then great. That’s absolutely whatever I can do. If I’m walking to the car for qualifying and there’s a line of fans, I’ll sign for as many as I can if I’m early. If I’m late, then obviously I’ve got to get going because qualifying is the priority.

Media is a whole ‘nother ballgame. Obviously the media gets the sport out to the fans, so if they need to do an interview while I’m debriefing, I can pop out for a minute and say, “Hey, yeah, what’s up?”

Q: I’ve often heard fans say something to drivers like, “Hey, remember me from an autograph session three years ago?” So it’s clear they want to be remembered. What’s something a fan could do to be remembered by you, without doing something crazy like stripping naked?

A: Yeah, the preference would be to keep their clothes on. (Laughs) It’s usually something odd that I sign or something, that’s what I remember. Like somebody has a stroller or something unusual you wouldn’t expect to be asked to sign.

Sometimes what they’re wearing actually plays a pretty big part. Just this week, I was doing an autograph signing with Jeff Burton and one of his longtime fans had this jacket just covered in buttons. So now I’ll remember that guy because of the buttons.

Q: The last person you wrecked — did you do it on purpose?

A: I don’t know that I even remember the last guy I wrecked. I honestly don’t. I guess it would have been all the way back to last year with Danica (Patrick) at Bristol. And it wasn’t on purpose. I know at the time she thought it was, but it definitely wasn’t. So the answer would be no.

Now, is the next guy I wreck going to be on purpose? I don’t know. I guess we’ll have to find out.

Q: Is there someone you used to clash with in the garage, but now you’ve made up and have a better understanding?

A: No, but there are people I clash with now and don’t like racing with. Can I answer that instead?

Sure.

There’s a couple guys on the Nationwide side that really aggravate me with their style of racing. Justin Allgaier being one of them. I feel like he races really wrong a lot of times.

Q: What’s the best racing-related movie?

A: Senna. I love Senna. I’ve watched it probably 20 times. I think it’s because of the raw footage. I like the funny movies, too — and I’ll laugh at them just like everybody else. But when it comes to showing the sport and how we think and how we are as drivers, they did a nice job with Senna.

And on top of that, it shows how passionate he was. When I was younger, I didn’t have a true understanding for how special what he was doing was. And I thought that movie did a really good job of showing that to people.

How come NASCAR drivers meetings aren’t as interesting as the ones in Senna?

I think if they were more intimate, they probably would be. Their drivers meetings, from what I saw, were just the head engineer and the driver. There was no press. I guess the equivalent would be Mike Helton, David Hoots and Robin Pemberton running it, and that’s it. I think it would be interesting to see if our drivers meetings would be like theirs and how much different that conversation would be.

Q: What’s your song of the moment right now?

A: It’s always rock music for me. I’m like a year late on this, and this is not normally my type of music, but I’ll go with the Imagine Dragons’ CD. I know I’m way behind the times on that one.

Well, but their songs from that album (Night Visions) are still on the radio now.

No, I’m a little behind on that one. I like to get on this stuff when the CD comes out. But Avenged Sevenfold has a new CD coming out soon, so I’ll listen to that. They haven’t had an album in like four years, so I’m looking forward to it. I think it’s Aug. 27 or something (Note: We checked, and it is Aug. 27).

Not that you’re counting the days or anything.

Not at all.

Q: Define yourself without NASCAR. Who are you away from the track?

A: Away from NASCAR? I’d say an animal lover. Hopefully a good husband — but I’m sure that has its days where it’s good and bad. (Laughs) And a caring son.

Q: I’ve been asking each driver to give me a question for the next interview. Last week was Jimmie Johnson, and he wanted to know: “How is Greg Ives doing in the leadership role with your team after being an engineer for years?”

A: That’s a good question. For me, he’s done great. The reason being is his experience, No. 1. What he’s done with (Johnson’s) 48 team and understanding how to race for championships. The prime example is when we had a couple down weeks recently, and his knowledge of how to handle that and how to carry that, not only as a leader for the team but also mentally. So it’s been a big benefit to me this year to have him. I think he’s done awesome.

And do you have a question for the next interview? It’s going to be with Dale Jarrett.

I think a good one would be: “After being as competitive as he was and as good as he was in a race car, how tough was it to transition to having to watch races every week from the booth — and be able to not feel like he could still be out there competing at a high level?”

That’s a good question.

I’m getting deep here. I’m going for it. I want the deep stuff, man. I want the inner gut check questions.



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