Dale Earnhardt Jr announced earlier this week that he would not be driving the No. 88 Mountain Dew Chevrolet at Charlotte or Kansas. It was announced that Regan Smith would be filling in for Earnhardt for those two races.
Smith qualified 24th in his debut for Hendrick Motorsports. By lap 25 he had moved up to 15th position passing the No. 78 car he had driven up until a week ago. He soon worked his way into the top-ten.
On lap 62 Smith dropped off the pace with the car smoking. He headed towards the garage. The crew pushed his car to the garage. At the time he was scored 37th. He later fell to 38th.
Smith said that “He felt a fast race car” before the engine let go. He described the event as disappointing. “I’m getting comfortable in these cars, in the field.”
Kurt Busch signed recently with Furniture Row Racing taking over the ride which Smith had occupied for 4 years.
In a ironic twist of fate, Smith was signed by Phoenix Racing to take over the car vacated by Busch. The injury to Earnhardt changed those plans. AJ Allmendinger was given the chance to drive the car. It was Allmendinger’s first race since completing NASCAR’s Road to Recovery program following a positive test for a banned substance.
Smith could be a possible driver of one of the JR Motorsports cars in the Nationwide Series. Smith has said that he would welcome an opportunity at the level if it provided a competitive car.