CSX and Regan Smith kick off NASCAR Speed Week—in a locomotive

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief

Last weekend was the start of Speed Week, which hopefully culminates on Monday night , Feb. 27, with the rain-postponed running of The Great American Race, the Daytona 500.

Regan Smith, driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet Impala in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, kicked off Speed Week in rather unusual fashion for his Sprint Cup team, Furniture Row Racing, by getting behind the controls of a CSX locomotive at the company’s Moncrief Yard, Jacksonville. Smith launched a NASCAR season “dedicated to urging motorists and pedestrians to exercise caution around train tracks,” CSX said.

Tonight, Smith will drive possibly the first car in Daytona 500 history to sport an actual bumper sticker, this one saying simply, “I BRAKE FOR TRAINS,” when the Great American Race gets the green flag.

As an associate sponsor of the No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet and Smith, CSX is using one of the hottest up-and-coming teams in NASCAR to further deliver its message to motorists to never try to beat a train at a crossing and to pedestrians to stay off the tracks. About every three hours, a person or a vehicle is hit by a train, according to FRA statistics. 

“One incident is too many,” says Cliff Stayton, CSX director-community affairs and safety. “Public awareness is a key part of our safety campaign, and we’re thrilled to be working with Regan and the No. 78 car. Even though they’re a one-car team, they always seem to find a way to be in the mix. I guess, to borrow an old railroad story, they’re the ‘little engine that could.’” (That’s a little engine cranking out 850 hp.)

“We’re honored to get the opportunity to spread such an important message,” says Smith. “Trains can’t stop on a dime. In fact, they can take up to a mile to stop.”

The bumper sticker and associated promotion is part of a larger CSX campaign called “Play it Safe.” The multimedia campaign includes billboards strategically placed by rail crossings, online advertising, social media and other communications that urge caution. The Play it Safe logos appear on all team apparel.

Other executions in the series include the lines, “Cautious Diem,” “Open up a giant can of safety” and “I’d rather be chicken than fried.”

CSX pedestrian and motorist campaigns have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, ESPN, Associated Press, ABC, FOX, and other national media.

One audience, in particular, Stayton hopes to reach are the 42 other drivers racing in the Daytona 500. “We want them to trail the No. 78 for as much of the race as possible,” says Stayton, “especially at the end of the last lap.” The Denver-based Furniture Row Racing and Regan Smith enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2011, capturING their first career NASCAR victory in May, winning the famed Southern 500 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.

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