Our series of weekly NASCAR driver interviews continues this week with Regan Smith. The Furniture Row Racing driver returns to Talladega this week, where he infamously crossed the finish line in first place three years ago but wasn't awarded the win.
SBN: Who is the most underrated driver in NASCAR?
RS: Paul Menard is my most underrated driver.
SBN: Well, that makes sense since he's in your upcoming wedding.
RS: Yeah, well...
SBN: I'm pretty sure we all know the answer to this question, but I'll ask it anyway. What's a race in your career that you didn't win, and it still bugs you because you didn't win it?
RS: Talladega. (chuckles) Talladega '08. That's a pretty easy one.
SBN: Let's say you can be on a four-car Sprint Cup Series team and you can pick your three teammates. Who would you want to team up with?
RS: Probably Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch...
RS: Well, sure. You've got to have some fun with the whole deal. And plus, no matter how bad I get on the radio, I'm always going to look good still!
SBN: And your third driver?
RS: Well, I gotta go with Paul. I think all of those would be interesting teammates to have.
How about if I was the owner of the team, though? I'm going to change this up on you.
SBN: Go for it.
RS: If I was an owner and not a driver, I'd take the Busch Brothers, Paul and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Because that way, the fans would still like us. And we've got Kyle Busch and Kurt Busch, who are wide-open pistols.
SBN: But wouldn't it be even more difficult to own a team with the Busch Brothers on it than be teammates with them?
RS: No, man! You'd never have a dull moment! Why not?
SBN: When you were coming up through the ranks, what driver did you want to model yourself after?
RS: You know, the one guy who sticks out to me – who was the reason I wanted to be a race car driver – was Davey Allison. Just the way he carried himself off the racetrack, and I idolized him when I was a little kid. So Davey Allison, hands down.
SBN: What's a memorable post-race escape you've made from the track to the airport after a race?
RS: It seems like every one is memorable in its own way. After Indy this year was a pretty memorable one. We got to do the police escort deal – I wasn't driving, it was our engineer at the time – and I think we hit about 120 mph in a minivan. That's about as fast as I wanted to go when I wasn't driving.
SBN: So the cops were doing those kind of speeds, and you're just keeping up with them?
RS: No, this was after the escort. (Laughs)
SBN: Ah, OK. Who is somebody famous you'd like to meet who you haven't met yet?
RS: I'm a big hockey fan, so probably Sidney Crosby.
SBN: So what do you typically say in those situations?
RS: Well, he's Canadian – so we'd probably drink a beer.
SBN: Last year, we saw two very different types of seasons. Jamie McMurray won some huge races but missed the Chase; Jeff Gordon made the Chase but didn't win the championship or any races. Which type of season would you rather have?
RS: If you're not going to win the championship, I'd say win the big races. But if you win the championship and don't win any races, I'd take the championship. That wasn't what you asked though.
If I could finish third in the championship and have no wins, or finish out of the points and win Daytona and the Brickyard, I would take those wins any day of the week over third in points.
SBN: Where does your motivation to win come from?
RS: Well, I think it's a little bit of everything. I know I'm competitive, first of all. And when you're competitive, you're always trying to prove something to somebody – whether it's ourselves, whether it's people in this garage, people in the stands. Whatever it might be.
SBN: How much does your personality differ from when you're standing here to when you're inside the car?
RS: When you're in the car, I don't think you ever think about what you're saying – you just say it. Sometimes, it's not the politically correct thing to say – not that we all say politically correct stuff all the time anyway – but it's business inside the car. You're not worried about people's feelings at that point. You're worried about trying to fix the car or whatever's going on.
That being said, you've got to have people around you that you respect enough so that after the race, you can get out of the car and say, 'Hey, sorry. Things got a little heated there.' Or, 'Did you take that the way I said it?' And whether they did or didn't, they can brush it off and be fine 10 minutes later.
SBN: If you could switch lives with an athlete from another sport, who would you want to be?
RS: Well, I'd definitely want to be a hockey player. How about Wayne Gretzky? He's just the man.
SBN: What do you think it'd be like to be the Great One?
RS: I've heard he's a pretty big gambler. And I've never been much of a gambler, but I've always thought, 'How cool would it be to go sit down at a casino table and just drop $50 g's like it's nothing?' I think it'd be awesome.
SBN: If you could take a year off from NASCAR and go do whatever you wanted – but know you had a ride guaranteed when you came back – would you ever want to do that?
RS: You know, right now, age-wise and everything like that, I wouldn't want to do that. When I'm 45? I'm sure I'd understand and realize there was more to life than racing. But I wouldn't want to do that now. That'd kill me. That would be the worst thing for me. I wouldn't know how to handle that.
I just wouldn't want to do that. That's not me.
SBN: When you eventually quit racing someday, what do you want your retirement story to say about you? How do you want to be remembered?
RS: Well, hopefully for being successful and for having a lot of wins. Whether it's wins, championships, whatever – your story is measured on the success you have. And the more success you have, the better that story is.
Then, once you have that success, it makes it a lot easier to help out in other areas, too. You can have a bigger voice, then.
SBN: Let's say you're going to win the championship. Would you rather wrap it up after Phoenix or win it off Turn 4 of the last lap of the season at Homestead?
RS: Well, it's going to be a hell of a party either way. And I'm afraid the party would start too soon if you clinched it at Phoenix. So we'll just say last turn of the last lap, and we'll make it an even bigger party.