NOTES: Smith Named Gordon’s Backup
CONCORD, N.C. – Regan Smith’s weekend in Charlotte was supposed to come to an end after Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race, because Smith had plans to attend the Indianapolis 500.
His plans changed when Jeff Gordon’s back issues resurfaced.
Hendrick Motorsports tabbed Smith to be Gordon’s backup driver if Gordon – who left the track after just 11 laps of practice on Saturday – can’t race any part of Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600.
Smith said he’d stepped into Gordon’s car briefly on Saturday, but hadn’t discussed setup plans with Gordon’s crew chief, Alan Gustafson.
“I hate being here under the circumstances,” said Smith, who finished seventh in the History 300 and took the series point lead.
“At the same time, given my position where I’m at right now, if it happens, you’ve got to be ready for that, especially when it’s a car as good as the No. 24 car and a team that’s as good as that team has been this year.”
Smith has subbed for Hendrick drivers in the past.
In addition to his JR Motorsports team being co-owned by Hendrick, Smith filled in for Dale Earnhardt Jr. for two Sprint Cup races in 2012 when Earnhardt was injured.
He also qualified Jimmie Johnson’s car last September at Richmond Int’l Raceway when Johnson was away to see the birth of his second daughter, Lydia.
• The only thing Kyle Larson held back on Saturday, when he won the History 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, was his post-race celebration.
Larson, who has become known for his “no-wheel burnout,” held off from doing it after his second Nationwide Series victory of the year.
Laughing in his post-race press conference, he couldn’t offer a reason as to why he skipped the celebration.
• Saturday’s Nationwide Series race had one notable difference from its recent past: Of the 40 drivers who started the event, 37 of them saw the checkered flag.
For a series attacked for its start-and-park cars, it was a good sight to have every car run more than 80 laps.