DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.–It was a team-wide panic attack.
When Regan Smith and his No. 7 JR Motorsports team saw most of a sizable NASCAR Nationwide Series lead erased by two bad finishes last year, he shifted into desperation mode–unnecessarily so, he says, in retrospect.
Fresh from a victory at Michigan, Smith led Sam Hornish Jr. by 58 points 13 races into the 2013 season, but a 32nd-place finish at Road America and a 30th-place result at Kentucky clipped 50 points from that advantage.
Those two outings sent the season into a tailspin.
“We went from one week thinking, ‘OK, we’ve just got to go out there and be smooth,’ to two weeks later, thinking, ‘Oh, man, they’re back on top of us, and now what do we do?’” Smith said Saturday during a break in Nationwide Series testing at Daytona International Speedway. “The reality was they weren’t really on top of us. We were all right there together and in (the championship battle)…
“We had the spiral in the middle of the season that was tough to get over and tough to understand what was taking place. We still had the same race cars, the same speed, but we started doing things a little more desperately than early in the year and probably didn’t need to, myself as a driver and other things along the way.
“And then we had a couple of other hiccups here and there, which are going to happen throughout the course of a season, and I just think we got too desperate to early, to be blunt about it.”
In his second full season with JRM, Smith believes he and his team have learned from last year’s implosion.
“I think the experience from last year is going to play a big part in understanding that, until we really get down to a certain part of the season, you don’t have to panic,” Smith said. “You don’t have to get desperate. You have to be smart and do the things that you know how to do.
“I had probably 90 people tell me that, and until you sit back at the end of the year and you look at it, you don’t realize it.”