On Friday evening, it was announced that Kurt Busch has been suspended by NASCAR. Later that night, Regan Smith found out that he will drive the No. 41 HAAS Automation Chevrolet in the Daytona 500.
““I would say anytime you have a chance to hop in a race car that you know is fast and know is more than capable of winning races, it’s always an opportunity to showcase talent, no matter where it is, no matter what the circumstances or situations are, you’ve got to always think that way and you’ve got to always be prepared that way,” Smith said. “So, yeah, I think we have a shot to go out and win this race on Sunday. I absolutely think we do and I’m going to go out and do everything I can to make that happen. And if that helps maybe get me to a situation where we can sit here and talk about these things and have it be strictly because somebody hired me to drive their car, then that’s the goal to go prove to people that I need to be doing that on a full time basis for the right reasons.”
Kurt Busch is appealing the suspension during Saturday afternoon, and when asked about the appeal, Mike Arning, Director of Communiations for Stewart-Haas Racing said, ““Stewart-Haas Racing is planning on having Regan Smith driving the No. 41 car in the Daytona 500.”
Tony Stewart mentioned that Stewart-Haas Racing had a plan in place during media week, and Smith said he “spoke to somebody this past week at one point, and that was about the extent of what I knew what was going on”. But now, everything is in place for it to happen.
Smith added when he found out last night, he went and spoke with crew chief Tony Gibson to see how the week had gone so far for the No. 41 team, and where they stood entering Saturday’s practice and Sunday’s race.
“He made it very clear that the goals and expectations are the same for tomorrow as they were two days ago, or three days ago,” Smith said. “They have a car capable of winning the race, and that is what we are going to go out and try to do. That has all stayed the same, we’re fortunate; there is a fortunate side for us and me in particular is that I have nothing to lose in this race other than to go out and drive as hard as I can, and as fast as I can. Obviously, if it ruffles a few feathers, oh well! That is how it is.”
The keys for Smith so far have been making sure that the car is fitted for Smith and ready to go.
“We had a plan coming into this morning of what time to get up, which was quite a bit earlier than I would normally get up,” Smith commented. “But, we’ve worked around all that stuff and getting the seat stuff ready so we can go make some laps with Happy Hour, it’s kind of convenient that I can get a few laps in the car at least before Sunday and get acclimated and see where the switches are and see where the buttons are.”
For Smith, this isn’t the first time that he has been called to sub for someone as he subbed for Dale Earnhardt Jr. a couple years ago when Earnhardt had his concussion, and subbed for Tony Stewart last year at Watkin’s Glen.
“I think the fortunate thing is that I’ve done enough Cup races to where I’m familiar with most of the cars,” he commented. “They have changed a little bit over the years and obviously this rules package is a little bit different than what I had in the majority of my experience in. But for a speedway, the fortunate thing is the drafting is similar from the Xfinity cars to the Cup cars, so that’s not a big adjustment.”
Regardless of the situation, Smith says that as a driver, you have to make the most of the situation.
“I don’t think anybody wants to be in the scenario where you have to sub under circumstances, whatever they may be. And with that said, if it happens, you want to make the most of that opportunity,” he commented. “And there are some guys, I don’t know how many, but we’ll say 200 employees because I don’t know how many Stewart-Haas has, but there are a lot of people that have had their hands on that race car and have worked hard on that race car and they deserve to still have the opportunity to go out there and win that race; and that’s what we’re going to try to do for them.”