The learning curve, which has moved along quickly and successfully between Furniture Row Racing driver Regan Smith and the team's new crew chief Todd Berrier, will take on a new challenge this weekend when the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competes at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Atlanta will be the first encounter as teammates for Smith and Berrier at a 1.5-mile venue, the length of the majority of races on the NASCAR circuit. (note Atlanta Motor Speedway actual length is 1.54 miles).
Since Berrier took over the crew chief duties at the end of July, he has directed Smith on two 2.5-mile tracks (Indianapolis and Pocono), a road course (Watkins Glen), a two-miler (Michigan) and a short track (Bristol).
"It's been said many times that if you want to be successful in NASCAR it's important to have a good handle on the 1.5-mile tracks," note Smith, driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row/Farm American Chevrolet. "After the first two races with Todd, I felt our biggest obstacle was going to be the road course at Watkins Glen, but we came away with a top-10 there.
"I've been upbeat about our potential and heading to Atlanta hasn't changed my optimism. Todd's a veteran, he's patient and has a plan. We have plenty to look forward to as a team."
In the last five races with Berrier as crew chief, Smith has finishes of 18, 9, 9, 29 and 16 for an average of 16. Take away the 29th-place result when he got wrecked in Michigan while running in the top-12, his average finish drops to 13, well ahead of his season finishing average of 22.5.
"Our performance has picked up considerably and we would like to leave Atlanta with another top-10," explained the 28-year-old Smith, who was testing this week at the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway track.
Smith's best finish at Atlanta in five career Cup starts was 14th in March 2010.
"Atlanta was one of those tracks where it took me a while to figure out," said Smith. "But I am much more comfortable now that I have a few races under my belt there. Tire management will be important in Atlanta since the track surface there is a little rougher. As I've been saying each week, if we can avoid accidents and mistakes, we should be in good position at the checkered flag."