Dale Earnhardt Jr. is expected to return to the No. 88 Chevrolet next weekend at Martinsville Speedway. During Earnhardt’s absence from NASCAR, Regan Smith has been driving the Hendrick owned car. On Sunday Smith finished seventh on the reconfigured 1.5 mile Kansas Speedway.
Smith was expected to drive the No. 1 car of Phoenix Racing, starting at Charlotte, after he was ousted from the No. 78 at Furniture Row Racing. When Dale Earnhardt Jr. sought medical attention following a concussion suffered on a last lap wreck at Talladega it was Smith who got the call.
Rumors persist that Smith is in line to sign a contract which will give him a full time ride in one of the Earnhardt owned cars on the Nationwide Series. The team will not have Danica Patrick driving for it next season and the status of rookie driver Cole Whitt is unknown.
What is also unknown is what happens to Regan Smith next week. AJ Allmendinger drove the Phoenix Racing car at Charlotte. Allmendinger finished 24th at Charlotte after a tire outside the pitbox penalized the car. He was involved in a crash at Kansas that left him 35th.
Rick Hendrick clarified comments during the race about the status of Earnhardt. The head of Hendrick Motorsports said that Earnhardt will test drive a car on Monday and then have another round of impact testing performed by Dr. Petty. At that time a decision will be made about Earnhardt’s status though the team owner fully expects Earnhardt to return.