Once jilted, Regan Smith continues reignited love affair with Talladega

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While many of his Nationwide Series counterparts dread coming to Talladega SuperSpeedway, not Regan Smith.

He loves the place – even though earlier in his career, it didn’t love him back (finished 37th and 23rd in his first two NNS races there back in 2006 and 2007, respectively).

After winning last April’s NNS race at the 2.66-mile, high-banked restrictor plate track, Smith was hoping for a repeat win in Saturday’s Aaron’s 312.

Smith came up a bit short, but he’ll still take a third-place finish Saturday to go along with last year’s visit to victory lane.

“These guys keep building fast speedway cars,” Smith said. “I love coming to these places with the kind of cars JR Motorsports gives us.”

Smith thought he had a chance for a second straight win coming off Turn 4, but Elliott Sadler and rookie Chris Buescher beat him to the finish line.

“I don’t know what I was trying to do (coming off Turn 4),” Smith said. “I was just trying to get to where I had a little daylight out in front of the race car and could finish off a move.”

He didn’t quite get it, but he did wind up with his second top-5 NNS finish this season.

“We needed that,” Smith said. “We’ve been in the top-10 all year long but we needed to get back in the top-5. We’ve been working hard, it’s been a little bit of a grind at times this year.”

Still, Smith has nothing to be ashamed of. He’s had nothing short of a spectacular season thus far. In nine starts, he has one win (season opener at Daytona), his third-place showing at Talladega and seven other top-10 finishes.

For a better example of that, since the second race of the season at Phoenix, he’s finished eighth, 10th, 10th, 10th, seventh, eighth, eighth and now third.

It doesn’t get much better consistency-wise than that. And while he dropped from second to third in the NNS standings, the damage wasn’t that bad: he’s just three points behind series leader Chase Elliott.

“I hate being able to see the flag and not getting there first,” Smith said, “but it was a good day nonetheless.”

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Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III