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Oct 14, 2012 - 09:12 AM
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Regan Smith Acclimates Quickly To Dale Earnhardt Jr's Car
Posted by: newsla on Oct 14, 2012 - 09:09 AM
Feature Articles
Regan Smith Acclimates Quickly To Dale Earnhardt Jr's Car


By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service

Though Regan Smith is one to downplay the pressure of stepping into Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s ride, there's no mistaking the breadth of the opportunity for the 29-year-old driver.

 

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Recently ousted from Furniture Row Racing in favor of veteran Kurt Busch, Smith was hired to replace Earnhardt when the sport's most popular driver was sidelined for at least two races by a concussion.

The weekend started slowly for Smith, who qualified 26th for Saturday night's Bank of America 500 in Thursday's time trials. By the end of Friday's second practice, however, Smith was second only to Kyle Busch on the speed chart.

Smith, who had planned to drive the No. 51 Chevrolet of Hendrick Motorsports affiliate Phoenix Racing before he got the call to sub for Earnhardt, said a large part of the battle was getting used to a completely new environment.

"It's just learning all the characteristics of this race car and what it's capable of, how much I can lean on it, different things it can do in the corner," Smith said Friday night after Happy Hour. "As much as anything, I'm just getting more and more comfortable in my surroundings in the car.

"Everything from the dashboard to the seat to where you're positioned in the car is different for me this weekend than what I've been accustomed to for four years, so it's getting better. Obviously, I think every time I get on the race track, it's going to continue to get better. And (Saturday's) a whole new ball game."

WHERE'S THE EDGE?

Jimmie Johnson used to dominate Charlotte Motor Speedway. Before the 1.5-mile track was resurfaced in 2006, Johnson won five times, including four straight in 2004-2005.

Since the repave, he's won just one points race at Charlotte, in October 2009.

"We've been very competitive since the track surface changed, but the advantage we had is gone," Johnson admitted after qualifying fifth for Saturday night's race. "We're still very competitive here. If anything, it has tipped the hand towards Kasey Kahne. This track has really worked well for him over the years.

"We hope to find our magic here this weekend. The All Star Race (in May of this year) was old 48 car fashion here. In the (Coca-Cola) 600 we had a very strong car. But since they repaved this race track, we've been one of maybe three or four, maybe five guys you can count on winning. But the old surface we had something on everybody.

"I don't know if it was me, the car or a combination of both probably. But we had something really cool going on there."

GOOD CATCH

The crew of Kyle Busch's No. 18 Toyota found a cracked track bar mount on the car before the race and changed the part, preventing what could have been a serious failure at speed.

Crews checked the other Joe Gibbs Racing cars and determined that the issue on the No. 18 was isolated.

Busch posted the fastest lap in Friday's final practice session, but he was more concerned with longer runs.

"It's nice to have the fastest lap, but it doesn't really mean much," Busch said. "What we're really looking at are lap averages - but it's a good car."

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