Regan Smith and Matt Crafton weren’t supposed to be in the field for the Daytona 500. However, in a tale of two tapes for the Busch brothers, they were called upon to run the event. In the end, they both posted top-20 finishes.
Smith was called upon to drive the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in place of Kurt Busch after Busch was suspended indefinitely from NASCAR competition.
Smith started off riding in the second half of the field staying out of trouble, but began to work his way to the front throughout the second half. In the end, he’d cross the finish line in the 16th position.
“Started off really tight with the race car and never got it turning,” Smith commented. “I don’t know, kind of frustrating. I actually anticipated a much better day and nothing much more to show for it. Those guys did a nice job all weekend but we just plowed through the corners.”
Crafton was called upon to drive the No. 18 M&MS Toyota in place of Kyle Busch after he was injured during the NASCAR XFINITY race.
Crafton spent the first half of the race riding at the back of the field, staying out of trouble. As the race got closer to the end, he tried to make his way through to improve his position, but was caught up in a crash on the final lap. He would finish 19th in his Sprint Cup Series debut.
“It was a learning curve,” Crafton commented. “The first half we just rode around and tried to learn, learn, learn. I made a mistake – I had a pretty good surge up top and I tried the bottom and shuffled myself all the way to the back. I should have had a little better finish there at the end, but it is what it is.”
Crafton added that he fought a tight car most of the event, and said it was “pretty gnarly” running the car without any practice.
“But that’s what we get paid to do – drive race cars and figure it out quick,” Crafton continued. “I felt fine, just my back from being in that seat hurt. Under yellows I would loosen up the belts as much as I could and just try to bow myself up in the seat just because my back was just cramped so unbelievable bad. We made it.”
Moving forward to the rest of the season, neither team has announced who will drive the cars in place of the brothers at Atlanta Motor Speedway or beyond.