3 reasons Regan Smith will do just fine as NASCAR’s latest substitute driver – For The Win
After Aric Almirola fractured his T5 vertebra in a terrible, fiery wreck during the Go Bowling 400 last weekend, Richard Petty Motorsports quickly realized it needed a replacement driver for Saturday’s Monster Energy Open.
So the team tapped Regan Smith – who’s been competing in the Camping World Truck Series this season – to pilot the No. 43 Ford this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
The 33-year-old is no stranger to the Cup Series, and although it’s unclear how long Smith might have to fill in for sidelined Almirola – RPM is having a press conference to discuss it Friday – here are three reasons why he could do well this weekend.
1. He’s done this before
Smith has experience on his side when it comes to subbing in for full-time drivers, and this will be the fifth time he’s had to lend a hand.
In 2012, he filled in for Dale Earnhardt Jr., who missed two races after being diagnosed with a concussion, and in 2014, he replaced Tony Stewart in one event the day after Stewart struck and killed Kevin Ward Jr. in a dirt track race. He also jumped in for Kurt Busch and Kyle Larson in 2015.
2. He has 211 Cup Series starts
Talent will only get you so far on the track and drivers rely heavily on their experience, so more than 200 races is pretty good for a substitute. Although Smith has yet to start a Cup Series race in 2017, over the last 10 years, he competed in at least half of the season’s races six times and was a full-time driver in 2016.
He even has one win – a 2011 victory at Darlington Raceway in the Showtime Southern 500. One win out of 211 isn’t a lot, but it’s better than plenty of the current full-time drivers. He’s also earned 13 top 10 finishes over the years.
3. No points, less pressure
The good news for Smith is his first 2017 Cup race doesn’t award playoff points or a boost in the driver standings. Nope, the Monster Energy Open is the gateway event to the All-Star Race later Saturday night, where the Open’s three stage winners – along with a fan-voted driver – will round out the 20-car field for the main event.
This weekend’s race is all about fun – and the $1 million all-star prize – so it’s a great opportunity for Smith to ease himself back into the Cup Series without the pressure of having to earn points for Richard Petty Motorsports.
He was a great choice to fill in while Almirola recovers, and RPM isn’t alone with its confidence in him.