NASCAR at Martinsville: Did subbing for Dale Earnhardt Jr. cost Regan Smith a future ride?

Sam Sharpe-US PRESSWIRE

Could one of the greatest opportunities of Regan Smith's career actually have cost him a chance to race more?

Smith was all set to drive Phoenix Racing's No. 51 car at Charlotte two weeks ago – the team had chosen him over AJ Allmendinger after Smith lost his Furniture Row Racing ride – until he got a phone call from Hendrick Motorsports.

With Dale Earnhardt Jr. out due to concussions, Hendrick Motorsports needed Smith to drive the team's No. 88 car for two weeks. Naturally, Smith accepted.

Allmendinger then drove the No. 51 car instead at Charlotte and Kansas, but some observers thought Smith would be in the car for Martinsville.

As it turns out, that's not the case. Phoenix Racing general manager Steve Barkdoll said Tuesday morning that Allmendinger – not Smith – will drive for the team this weekend. Allmendinger apparently made a good enough impression that the team wanted to give him another shot.

So what of Smith? Earnhardt Jr. is expected to be cleared today and allowed to race the 88 at Martinsville, so Smith was apparently left holding the hot potato. While it seems likely Smith is headed to drive for JR Motorsports in the Nationwide Series next year, his Sprint Cup Series future for the rest of this season is unclear.

It would be a harsh turn of events for Smith if helping Hendrick ultimately cost him a shot to race this weekend (the driver confirmed he has no Martinsville ride as of now), but that seems to be the case.

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