Now that Dale Earnhardt Jr. re-takes his seat in the the #88 Mountain Dew Chevrolet after dismissing himself for two races, what will Reagan Smith do? Smith turned down an already accepted offer to replace Kurt Busch in the Phoenix Racing #51 for the remainder of the season, but opted out when the phone rang, and it was Hendrick Motor Sports on the other end of the line. Opportunity had called, and the 29 year old driver from Cato, New York answered.
Mar. 3, 2012; Avondale, AZ, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt Jr (left) talks with team owner Rick Hendrick during qualifying for the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE
Who in their right mind would pass up an opportunity to spend a few races replacing the sports most popular driver, a chance to show the first family in Nascar what you can do with top equipment, and a top racing team. But now that it’s over, where does Reagan Smith go from here?
With Nascar’s rule that car owners can have no more that four race teams, if Mr. Hendrick wanted to keep him, where would he put him with the stable full of thoroughbreds he has? Let’s see… won’t fit in the #24, there’s a four time Cup Champion there. not the #48 either, he has five titles, and currently close to winning number six. The 5 is having a pretty darn good year also, The Farmers Insurance Chevrolet, after a somewhat shaky start, is sitting in 5th place and only 30 points back.
I see this scenario playing out: Mr. Hendrick will keep Reagan around for the final four races. With Martinsville up next, and like Joe Biden, he will be one pile-up away from re-taking the Mountain Dew Chevy for the remainder of the season. When the dust settles on the 2012 season, we know Danica Patrick will be promoted at Stewart-Hass Racing to Cup status(only the good Lord, and Tony Stewart know why), possibly leaving the #7 Nationwide ride open. With the tight relationship between JR Motorsports, and Hendrick, this could be a possibility.
The only question, would GoDaddy sign off, or would Dale JR, need to find another sponsor for that ride? Reagan Smith is not the high profile driver GoDaddy typically sponsors, but I’m sure they can find money somewhere. The only snag I see is, does Danica continue in the Nationwide to gain track experience?
I think a year in the Nationwide series for a top driver like Reagan Smith would be a great place to re-establish himself. This would be particularly good with a top organization behind him. Look what Elliot Sadler has done this year, a great place to build confidence and seat time. Who knows, as we see in Football especially, those pesky head injuries are not easy to shake, and we know it will not be long until Dale Jr. has another accident. Now that he has raised his hand, they will be watching him like a hawk.
I’ve been impressed with Reagan Smith ever since he won the Southern 500 back in the spring of 2011. That’s a tough track for a youngster to get his first win, and he followed it up that year with an 8th place finish at the Coke 600, and a 3rd at Indy. I think with an organization like HMS behind him, he has the talent to win at this level. Although having some bad luck at Charlotte with a blown engine in the #88, he brought home a solid 7th at Kansas.
Who knows…how much longer will the seat in the 24 be occupied?
Follow Me on Twitter @Spin_47