Regan Smith's day as Tony Stewart's substitute didn't go as well as he hoped it would
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Regan Smith was at the wrong place at the wrong time at Watkins Glen on Sunday.
Smith had a respectable run going in the No. 14 Chevy as he filled in for Tony Stewart, until he was collected in a four-car wreck with eight laps remaining in the race. On Lap 82, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Kyle Larson went three-wide entering Turn 1 ahead of Smith, who was running 19th on the restart.
When Johnson spun, Smith received the worst of the damage.“My day really doesn’t matter right now,” Smith said following the wreck. “There are a lot of people more important than me at the moment; so we’re thinking about all those people and our prayers are with them.”
Stewart elected to sit out of the Cheez-It 355 at the Glen after he was involved in a fatal wreck Saturday night at Canandaigua Motorsports Park. Stewart was competing in the Sprintacular, featuring the Empire Super Sprints at CMP, when he hit 20-year-old Kevin Ward, Jr., who had climbed from his car following an on-track run-in with the three-time NASCAR champ.
Gesturing in apparent displeasure, Ward walked toward Stewart's car, which was still circling track and was knocked back toward the outside wall after contact from the right side of Stewart's car. Smith was enlisted on Sunday morning to fill in for Stewart. He received the call from his JR Motorsports crew chief Ryan Pemberton.“
It’s my job to be able to drive a race car and it took me a little longer to get acclimated than I would have hoped it would
I woke up this morning and obviously heard more about it and at 8:30 I got a call from my crew chief Ryan (Pemberton) and said to get to the shop as quick as I could so I did,” Smith said.Smith arrived at the track around 11:30 a.m. and was immediately fitted for Stewart’s car. After the team moved the car to the grid around 12: 20, Smith had about a 10 minute briefing with crew chief Chad Johnston prior to the race.
By 12:45, Smith was hustling to get out to the grid.After interviews with ESPN and MRN, he climbed into the car. Because of the driver change, Smith had to drop to the back of the field and started the race 40th. Spotter Bob Jeffers told Smith, “I will talk to you like I normally do with Smoke. If you need me to change anything I will.”
Having raced in the NNS event on Saturday, Smith was concerned with the blend line rule, but did his best to acclimate to his surroundings.“I haven’t been in a Cup car in a year and a half in an actual race,” said Smith, who ran just six Cup races in the new Generation 6 car last year. “
These things are a lot different now than they were a year and a half ago and there have been a lot of changes to them.”During the first red-flag stoppage of the race on Lap 56, Smith had more time to acclimate to the team and surroundings. He acknowledged that “the car is better than I am right now." He restarted 21st and remained in the top 25 until the incident on Lap 82.
Smith said, “I would rather be on the racetrack than watching it on TV,” but the opportunity was far from under ideal conditions.“It’s a race car.,” Smith said. “It’s my job to be able to drive a race car and it took me a little longer to get acclimated than I would have hoped it would and felt like at the end there I was finally starting to make some progress and I was able to get consistent with the car and understood the car a little better and what it was doing.“These guys build fast race cars at Stewart-Haas and I was thankful to get to get in one. Definitely not under the circumstances.”
Regan Smith finished 37th.