Regan Smith woke up this morning looking forward to practicing his new car with his new team. Unbeknownst to him, the most popular driver in NASCAR, Dale Earnhardt Jr. would be sitting out this weekend and the next weekend. It started with a text message from a strange phone number.
Regan said, “I knew nothing about it. Woke up, and I had a text that had just come through. I got up, and I was making coffee and I read the text, because I didn’t recognize the number, I didn’t have his (Steve Letarte) number punched in my phone that said ‘Hey this is Steve Letarte, give me a call ASAP’. I didn’t think much about it, until I saw the ASAP part, I picked up the phone and called him and said ‘Hey, what’s going on’. He informed me of everything that was taking place. I took a shower, hopped in my car and headed for the shop.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. had been diagnosed with a concussion and was sitting out two weeks of races. Rick Hendrick had arranged the night before for Regan Smith to fill in the No. 88 Chevy. Regan was supposed to take over for Kurt Busch in the James Finch’s No. 51 Chevy. Rick Hendrick said, “I called James Finch last night about 10:00 and asked him could we use Regan. He agreed, and that’s ‑‑ told Stevie last night at 8:00. So this morning he called Regan and we told him we’d had it cleared with James, and that’s where we are right now.”
What an opportunity for Regan Smith. Regan has been driving in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series for since 2007 in cars that are not the quality of those driven by Dale Jr. He now has the opportunity to show what he can do in the best equipment in the business. When Dale Jr. was asked about the opportunity he said, “You know, Regan doesn’t need any tutoring or anything like that. He’s ready to go. He’s going to do a great job. I’m excited for his opportunity. He’s a really good guy, been a good friend of mine for a long time. Under the circumstances I think this is a really, really neat opportunity for him, and I think that Steve and the guys will enjoy working with him.”
Regan Smith is excited for his shot but concerned for the circumstances at the same time. “It’s an exciting opportunity for me. I hate the circumstances surrounding it. Obviously Dale’s safety and getting healthy is the most important two things right now. But, with that said, it is a great opportunity for me to hop in a race car.”
Regan Smith does not have a job in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series for 2013. This Opportunity is his chance to audition in great equipment for one. If he does well a sponsor and/or team might decide to give him a shot in their car next year.
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