|Regan Smith starts 26th Saturday night|
“I found out at 7 AM Thursday,” said Smith. “I had a text message that said, ‘Hey this is Steve Letarte, give me a call ASAP.’ I called him and said I was headed to the gym, and he said, ‘Why don’t you head over to the (Hendrick Motorsports) shop instead?’”
While realizing that he has “big shoes to fill,” Smith said he looks forward to Saturday night’s race. “We want to do the same stuff this team does every weekend,” he said. “Go out, try to get the pole, try to win the race. Do him and the Junior Nation proud; that is what the goal is.
“I am very fortunate that I am the guy they chose to call,” said Smith. “I really appreciate that. It is going to be the best car I have sat in, there is no denying that. I just want to go out and make the most of it. Run all 500 miles and see where we are at when it is all said and done.”
Team owner Rick Hendrick hinted yesterday that Smith could be in line for a Hendrick-associated Nationwide Series ride next season, Smith said, “Beyond this weekend and Kansas, I don’t know. If Mr. H said it, usually what Mr. H says is the gospel. We’ve had some talks, (and) certainly that would be something that would be really cool for me. But right now, the focus is the AMP Energy Chevy.”
Smith admitted that it is difficult to step into someone else’s race car and run well.
“I’ll tell you that there’s going to be a different feel,” he said. “There are going to be different things with the seat; maybe little stuff here and there. Every car is different inside. There’s going to be some differences, but I’ll adjust accordingly. By Saturday, we’ll be fine.
“You don’t ever want to get into a car because someone is hurt or sick,” said Smith. “That is not a good situation for anybody. But with that being said, there is going to be an opportunity for somebody, and you want to make the most of that opportunity. Dale’s safety is the most important thing through all of this. This race car has got to be on the race track, and I am glad and honored to be the guy to do it.”
“It is a great opportunity for me to hop in a race car,” he said. “The past four weeks have been about as up and down as any four weeks of my life. Yesterday, I was in South Carolina getting fitted for the No. 51 car to hop into the Phoenix Racing Chevy this weekend. This morning at seven o’clock, I was at Hendrick Motorsports getting ready to hop in the No. 88.
“It’s been a lot going on, and I just want to do these guys proud and run as good as we can this weekend.”