BRISTOL, Tenn. (Army News Service, March 26, 2007) - Regan Smith's toughest critic following his Nextel Cup debut was Regan Smith.

"Anytime you feel like you have a better car than the driver you leave the track disappointed," said Smith, who finished 25th in Sunday's Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

The competitive Smith was still stinging about an early pit-road miscue. On the team's first pit stop (Lap 49), the right side of the U.S. Army Chevrolet Impala SS was inches over the pit-box line, resulting in a one-lap penalty. Smith went from 18th place in track position to 39th.

"I made a mistake on pit road and that pretty much killed our day from then on," offered the 23-year-old Smith. "I was barely over the line - sometimes the official is lenient but he wasn't today."

Though Smith was extremely hard on himself, he didn't let the incident rattle him. He went on to drive a strong race to finish the event, which saw numerous wrecks, resulting in 15 cautions for 90 laps.

"I feel it was a huge accomplishment to finish the race at Bristol," noted Smith. "We are proud of that because that was the main objective. I'm glad this is over - all the hoopla about my Cup debut. I am looking forward to Martinsville next week. I want all of the Soldiers to know what a great honor it is to drive their U.S. Army car."

Crew chief Ryan Pemberton was pleased with Smith's overall performance.

"Everyone has to remember he didn't come into an easy situation by driving the car that was in the points lead and making his first Cup start at what is probably the toughest track on the circuit," said Pemberton. "But Regan handled himself very well both on and off the track. We were impressed on how he regrouped after that early pit-road mistake. He drove a hard race. He's a pleasure to work with and this deal is only going to get better."

Smith was also hoping to finish the race with a clean car, but on the final turn of the final lap, he was part of a multicar wreck that resulted in a good deal of damage to the front-end of the 01 Chevy. However, the accident did not cost Smith any track position.

"We almost made it with a clean car, but fortunately the incident happened when it did instead of earlier in the race," said Smith. "Overall, I learned a lot today and I know there's much more to learn. But I am part of a great team and have a great mentor in Mark Martin. I am pumped about the future."

Next weekend's Martinsville event (April 1) will be broadcast live on FOX beginning with a pre-race show at 1:30 p.m. ET.

Page last updated Mon March 26th, 2007 at 08:43