Regan Smith believes he can win the Daytona 500 in place of Kurt Busch


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – From the couch to the cockpit, Regan Smith will enjoy a much better seat for Sunday’s Daytona 500.

Instead of watching the winner’s celebration on TV, he could be playing the starring role in the 57th running of the Great American Race.

“The biggest difference is I’ve got an opportunity to hop in a race car that’s more than capable of winning the Daytona 500,” Smith said Saturday morning before practicing the No. 41 Chevrolet in place of suspended Kurt Busch. “I want to make the most of that opportunity.”

Smith, who has become somewhat of a super sub in NASCAR’s premier series the past two years, has exhibited the ability to make a winning cameo on a restrictor-plate track in the Sprint Cup Series.

He actually took the checkered flag in the October 2008 race at Talladega Superspeedway while driving for Dale Earnhardt Inc., but the victory was disallowed and handed to Tony Stewart after NASCAR ruled Smith had gone below the yellow line to win.

In his two most recent starts in Cup plate races, Smith finished seventh in the 2013 Daytona 500 and sixth at Talladega two months later while driving for Phoenix Racing.

He will have a car equipped with the same Hendrick Motorsports-supplied chassis and engine Sunday at Daytona International Speedway, where Busch will miss the season opener after being indefinitely suspended Friday.

Smith spent Saturday morning getting acclimated with Busch’s ride, being fitted for the seat and learning the locations for toggle switches and buttons. He then drove in the final practice session.

“There are different things to worry about with the Cup car as compared to the Xfinity car,” said Smith, who has driven for JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series the past two seasons and finished third and second in points with three victories. “It might take 15 to 20 laps to understand where (the cars) jump sideways. The situations should be similar, outside of that, and I anticipate it being relatively seamless.”

Smith, who spent Friday practicing for Saturday afternoon’s Xfinity race at Daytona, said he can’t explain his excellence in plate races.

“I wish I knew what led to the success,” he said. “There’s a certain level of comfort at this style of racing (and) trying to outthink guys.”

The Cato, N.Y., native, whose claim to fame is a victory in the 2011 Southern 500, already has familiarity with Stewart-Haas Racing. Last year, he filled in at Watkins Glen International for Tony Stewart, who missed the race after striking and killing Kevin Ward Jr. in a sprint car race. He also filled in for Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Kansas Speedway in October 2012 when a concussion sidelined NASCAR’s most popular driver for two races.

No. 41 crew chief Tony Gibson told Smith the team still believes it can win with Smith.

“I’d say anytime you have a chance to hop in a car that’s fast and more than capable of winning races, you always have an opportunity to showcase your talent,” Smith said. “You have to think that way. I absolutely think we have a shot to win this race.”

He also will have a familiar spotter in Rick Carelli (who worked with Smith a few years ago).

Tony Stewart said last week that SHR had a contingency plan in place if Busch was removed from the car because of a protective order sought by his ex-girlfriend (it was granted Monday by a Delaware family court). Smith said he hadn’t had discussions with SHR about the ride beyond Daytona, nor had he spoken yet with Busch.

“I don’t know if I will or won’t,” he said. “Naturally since he’s been driving the car, it would be beneficial to talk to him and what can I expect out of this car. So if that opportunity presents, we’ll discuss that stuff. Outside of that, I haven’t spoken to him.”

He has been in regular contact with his wife, Megan, who is expecting their first child in a few weeks.

“My wife and I have a very good relationship,” Smith said with a laugh. “We had discussions prior to this happening. I asked her to keep her legs crossed as long as she can if she goes into labor. We’ll do what we can.”

NASCAR suspends Chase Elliott one race for incident with Denny Hamlin

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NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one Cup race for wrecking Denny Hamlin in Monday’s Coca-Cola 600, the sanctioning body announced Tuesday.

“We take this very seriously,” Elton Sawyer, senior vice president of competition, said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “The incident that happened off Turn 4, again after looking at all the available resources — in-car camera, data, SMT, which basically gives us (a car’s) steering, throttle, gives us braking — it was an intentional act by Chase in our opinion.”

Hendrick Motorsports stated that it would not appeal the penalty. Corey LaJoie will drive the No. 9 car for Hendrick Motorsports this weekend at World Wide Technology Raceway. Carson Hocevar will drive LaJoie’s car this weekend.

Hendrick Motorsports also stated that it would submit a waiver request for Elliott to remain eligible for the playoffs. Sawyer said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that “I don’t see any reason at this point in time why wouldn’t (grant the waiver) when that request comes across our desk.”

This weekend will mark the seventh race in the first 15 that Elliott will have missed. He missed six races after breaking his leg in a snowboarding accident in early March. Elliott, who is winless this season, is 29th in points.

Elliott and Hamlin got together shortly before the halfway mark in Monday’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

As they ran together, Elliott’s car slapped the outside wall. Elliott’s car then made contact with the right rear of Hamlin’s car, sending Hamlin into the wall.

“I got right-rear hooked in the middle of the straightway,” Hamlin said after the incident. “Yes, it was a tantrum. He shouldn’t be racing next week. Right-rear hooks are absolutely unacceptable. He shouldn’t be racing.”

Said Sawyer on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio: “In the heat of the battle, things happen, but they have to learn to react in a different way. … Our drivers need to understand that you have to handle that in a completely different way than hooking someone in the right rear and putting them in harm’s way, not only with just a major head-on collision like Denny had, but also other competitors.”

Sawyer also said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that “nothing gave us the indication that on that particular contact with the fourth-turn wall … that anything was broke” on Elliott’s car and could have caused him to come down and hit Hamlin’s car in the right rear.

NASCAR also announced that Scott Brzozowski and Adam Lewis, crew members on Michael McDowell‘s team, had each been suspended two races after McDowell’s car lost a tire in Monday’s race.

Winners and losers at Charlotte Motor Speedway


A look at winners and losers from Monday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway:


Ryan Blaney — Blaney stopped his winless streak at 59 races and gave team owner Roger Penske his second major race victory in two days. Blaney had the best car but had to fight through restarts late in the race to win.

William Byron — Byron, the winningest driver this season, barely missed getting victory No. 4. He finished second and scored his fifth straight top 10.

Martin Truex Jr. — Truex logged his third top five of the season.

23XI RacingBubba Wallace was fourth and Tyler Reddick fifth, giving 23XI Racing a pair of top-five finishes for the first time in a points race.


Jimmie Johnson — The seven-time champion admitted having problems adjusting to the Next Gen car on a 1.5-mile track. He crashed early and finished last.

Legacy Motor Club — It was a bad night for Jimmie Johnson and his team’s drivers. Johnson finished last in the 37-car field. Noah Gragson was 36th. Erik Jones placed 32nd.

Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin — Two drivers who had strong cars didn’t make it to the finish after crashing near the halfway point. Hamlin said Elliott “shouldn’t be racing next week. Right-rear hooks are absolutely unacceptable. He shouldn’t be racing.”

NASCAR Xfinity Series results: Justin Allgaier wins at Charlotte


CONCORD, N.C. — Justin Allgaier finally broke through for his first win of the NASCAR Xfinity Series season Monday night.

Allgaier stretched his last fuel load over the final laps to finish in front of John Hunter Nemechek. Cole Custer was third, Austin Hill fourth and Ty Gibbs fifth. Gibbs ran both races Monday, completing 900 miles.

The win also was the first of the season for JR Motorsports.

Charlotte Xfinity results

Xfinity points after Charlotte

Justin Allgaier wins NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway


CONCORD, N.C. — Justin Allgaier won a fuel-mileage gamble to win Monday night’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Allgaier stretched his fuel to outlast second-place John Hunter Nemechek. Following in the top five were Cole Custer, Austin Hill and Ty Gibbs.

The victory was Allgaier’s first of the year and the first of the season for JR Motorsports. He has 20 career wins.

MORE: Charlotte Xfinity results

After a long day at CMS, the race ended at 11:25 p.m. The race started Monday morning but was stopped twice because of weather before it was halted with 48 of 200 laps completed so that the Coca-Cola 600 Cup Series race could be run.

When the race was stopped, Gibbs, Nemechek and Allgaier were in the top three positions.

Gibbs won the first two stages.

Stage 1 winner: Ty Gibbs

Stage 2 winner: Ty Gibbs

Who had a good race: Justin Allgaier has had good cars in previous races but finally cashed in with a win Monday. He led 83 laps. … John Hunter Nemechek, in second, scored his fifth top-two run of the season. … Cole Custer scored his sixth straight top-10 finish. … Ty Gibbs lasted 900 miles for the day and led 52 laps in the Xfinity race.

Who had a bad race: Sam Mayer was running 10th when he spun off Turn 2. He finished 35th. … Sheldon Creed finished three laps down in 28th.

Next: The series moves on to Portland International Raceway in Oregon for a 4:30 p.m. ET race June 3.