Regan Smith’s debut in the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports NASCAR Sprint Cup entry was short-lived at Charlotte Motor Speedway Saturday night.
Smith performed admirably while substituting for Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is sidelined with a concussion stemming from a wreck at Talladega Superspeedway last Sunday. Although Smith qualified 26th, he moved up into the top 10 by the third restart on Lap 42.
Smith climbed up to ninth when crew chief Steve Letarte radioed: “Great work, buddy. If they want to race you like that, that’s just dumb. You’re doing fine, you’re doing great.”
Although Smith was hoping for a track-bar adjustment on his next pit stop, smoke started spewing from the car on Lap 60. Smith completed just one more lap before bringing the car to pit road, where Letarte determined the engine was terminal.
“You did a great job, buddy, great job,” Letarte said. “You proved that you could race with those guys.”
Smith finished 38th. He will have a second chance next weekend at Kansas Speedway.
“I think the important part was we had a really fast race car,” Smith said. “We had a good first adjustment there, went just a little too far with it and got a little too free. Needed one more stop and I think we would have had it dialed in and then just chased the weather from that point on.
"It’s disappointing. It’s a good team, it’s a good car and everybody at Hendrick Motorsports does a great job. I’m looking forward to next week. We get three days to test when we get there to Kansas, and we will see if we can get the AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet up front there. I feel confident we will have the same speed we had here.”