Regan Smith is familiar with playing the role of pinch-hitter.
The 31-year-old native of Cato, New York, last year filled in for Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International the morning after Stewart was involved in a fatal accident in a sprint car race in New York state. Smith also subbed for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2012 after a concussion sidelined Earnhardt.
In Sunday’s Daytona 500, Smith will replace Kurt Busch in the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet, after NASCAR indefinitely suspended Busch for allegedly assaulting ex-girlfriend Patricia Driscoll last September in Dover, Delaware.
Saturday morning at Daytona International Speedway, Smith met with the media to talk about Sunday’s race and his last-minute move to the No. 41.
Last week team co-owner Stewart said it had a contingency plan in place should Busch be suspended. Smith would not confirm whether he was that plan.
"I believe the team had a plan in place, whenever that was," said Smith. "I spoke to somebody this past week at some point and that was about the extent of what I knew."
As far as driving the car beyond this weekend, Smith insisted he wasn’t thinking about that.
"I’m just purely focused on the Daytona 500 right now and helping these guys get through this weekend," said Smith. "Outside of that, I don’t know anything."
Smith, the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the Year, said he is confident he can get the job done on Sunday.
"I think we have a shot to go out and win this race on Sunday; I really do," said Smith.
Smith will have the final Happy Hour round of practice Saturday from 10:30 to 11:55 a.m. ET to familiarize himself with the No. 41.
Tony Gibson, crew chief of that car, tweeted earlier Saturday, "NASCAR has made a statement. Stewart-Haas Racing has made a statement. PLEASE allow me to do my job today. I still have a race car to get ready for the Daytona 500. Thanks."
Gibson and Smith met Friday night to prepare for Sunday’s race.
"He made it very clear that the goals and expectations are the same tomorrow as they were two days ago or three days ago," Smith said of Gibson. "They have a car capable of winning the race and that’s what we’re going to try and go out and do."
Busch will appeal his suspension — the hearing begins Saturday at noon — but regardless of the outcome of that appeal, "Stewart-Haas Racing is planning on having Regan Smith drive the No. 41 car in the Daytona 500," said team spokesman Mike Arning.