Allmendinger, Smith to share No. 51

AJ Allmendinger, Regan Smith to share No. 51 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet

Regan Smith and AJ Allmendinger will share the driving duties for the No. 51 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet for the remainder of the 2012 season.

Team owner James Finch confirmed his driver lineup to on Tuesday. Allmendinger will continue behind the wheel this weekend in Martinsville and the following week at Texas Motor Speedway. Smith will finish the season for Phoenix Racing at Phoenix International Raceway and Miami-Homestead Speedway.

Smith, 29, was contracted to run Charlotte and Kansas for Finch before Dale Earnhardt Jr. was sidelined with a concussion. Smith filled in for Earnhardt in the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet the past two weeks. He exited Charlotte early with an engine failure but posted his fourth top-10 finish of the season on Sunday.

Allmendinger, 30, made his Sprint Cup comeback with Finch at Charlotte after violating NASCAR’s substance abuse policy in June. He completed the Road to Recovery program and was reinstated on Sept. 18. Allmendinger finished 24th at Charlotte after Phoenix Racing suffered a pit road penalty. He qualified 13th at Kansas and was running in the top 10 before his right front tire failed 69 laps into the race.

Given the rapport Allmendinger has built with the No. 51 team in a short time, Finch wanted to extend the opportunity to the driver. Allmendinger finished second at Martinsville and 15th at Texas in April.

After four seasons with Furniture Row Racing, Smith was replaced by Kurt Busch on Oct. 7. He was headed to the No. 51 Chevrolet before Earnhardt needed a substitute. With Earnhardt returning to action this weekend with his team at Martinsville, Smith’s immediate plans are uncertain. However, with Smith 23rd in the point standings and Phoenix Racing’s original offer for a ride, Finch didn’t want to leave the driver hanging, either. Smith still has an opportunity to finish the season in the top 25 in driver points.

Smith is expected to join JR Motorsports in 2013 and make a run for the Nationwide Series title.

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