Regan Smith and his team put it all on the line at Pocono Raceway — and it paid off for single-car team Tommy Baldwin Racing.
Smith netted a third-place finish at Monday afternoon, capturing just the second top-five finish in the history of TBR. After starting 30th, pit strategy played a vital role in the top three result. As pit stops cycled through, Smith’s No. 7 was a few laps from pitting when heavy fog rolled over the Tricky Triangle. As a result, NASCAR was unable to restart the race and for the first time in a long time, Smith found himself in the right place at the right time.
“The cloud kind of came at just the right time for us. We were within five or six laps of having to pit, but it’s a credit to my guys for seeing the opportunity to do that strategy,” Smith said. “When you’re a small team working hard to try and go up against some of the bigger teams that we do, you’ve got to take the opportunities when they present themselves. Today and this weekend in general, just kind of had that feeling to it with the rain on and off all weekend long, and we were able to make the most out of it.”
Pocono marks the second top-10 result of 2016 for Smith, who finished eighth in the season-opening Daytona 500. Smith praised crew chief and team owner Tommy Baldwin, Jr. for the risky strategy call, knowing chances like that typically fall flat.
Smith said, “For every 10 times you try something like this, it works once or twice, and it’s even more rare that it works to the level it did today. Usually, you pick up a spot here or there. I’ll be honest; I’m kind of surprised more guys didn’t stay out that long and stretch it just a little while like we did.”
Making the most out of the situation is crucial to a small organization. Despite a partnership with Richard Childress Racing, TBR has just 24 employees on staff and is unable to afford many of the perks enjoyed by the competition. The weekly battle for a top 20 is a struggle, which makes the third-place result vital to the team’s motivation.
“Just for the shop alone to be able to say, ‘Hey, we had a good day’ [is important]. I know everybody is going to say it was fuel mileage, it was rain, it was this, it was that,” Smith said, adding, “We had a good day, we stayed on the lead lap, did what we had to do.”
The No. 7 crew played the pit strategy game, and it was worth it; a top three is equivalent to a victory for the small organization of Tommy Baldwin Racing. Their driver is optimistic for his team despite the circumstances surrounding the finish. To Smith, runs like this signify progress, even if fuel mileage and rain played a factor.
“We were way more competitive today than we were two months ago, and that’s a gain.”
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