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Once jilted, Regan Smith continues reignited love affair with Talladega

May 3, 2014, 6:49 PM EDT

(Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

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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