Regan Smith won't drive in this week's NASCAR race at Martinsville Speedway, marking the first time he's missed a Sprint Cup Series event since 2009.
But Smith, who recently completed a two-race stint as the substitute driver for Hendrick Motorsports' No. 88 car, said he's not angry or upset about his current situation.
He told SB Nation by phone Tuesday there were "no hard feelings whatsoever" over Phoenix Racing's decision to put AJ Allmendinger in the car at Martinsville, partly because Smith wasn't officially available until Dale Earnhardt Jr. was cleared to return from concussions.
"(Phoenix) just had to be able to commit to something," Smith said. "For a time period there, we were just having to wait and see a little bit to see how things went at (Earnhardt Jr.'s) test. I think everybody was anticipating things were fine and the test was going to go fine, but there was that little bit of wait-and-see moment, and (Phoenix) had to be able to work toward what they were doing at Martinsville."
Smith said it's "not out of the realm of possibility" he could drive the No. 51 car before the season ends. He was originally scheduled to race for the team starting at Charlotte – the same week Furniture Row Racing released him in favor of Kurt Busch – but then Hendrick called and asked him to replace Earnhardt Jr.
AJ Allmendinger raced the No. 51 at Charlotte and Kansas instead, and Phoenix Racing decided to stick with him for Martinsville.
Smith, though, said he completely understood Phoenix having to "carry on as a race team" and also acknowledged Martinsville was "a good opportunity for AJ to get back in."
"Quite honestly, it was fortunate for me that Phoenix and James (Finch) – who I had already committed to – was willing to let me go (drive the 88) and not just say, 'Hey, we're already committed,'" Smith said. "I was very fortunate they were willing to work with me on that."
Similarly, Smith had no regrets over driving for Hendrick. He called it a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" and praised crew chief Steve Letarte and the 88 team for opening their arms to a temporary driver.
The end result, though, is Smith will be sidelined for this week and possibly longer. He hasn't missed a NASCAR race since he ran a half-season schedule for Furniture Row three years ago.
"I would certainly love to be racing as much as possible, but there's a lot going on in my world also right now, so we'll just have to wait and see how that all plays out," Smith said. "I hope to know more in the coming days and weeks."
Smith was referring to the possibility he could drive for JR Motorsports in the Nationwide Series next season and run for the championship. Two of JRM's co-owners, Kelley Earnhardt Miller and Rick Hendrick, publicly raised that possibility in the last week, and Smith acknowledged there have been "discussions."
"It would be an opportunity to go out there and win a championship, and that's what every race car driver wants to do – win races and championships," he said. "It would certainly appear that would be a cool thing to do."
As for Sunday's race, Smith said he's not quite sure what he'll do. He toyed with the idea of staying home and watching football, but he might not be able to stay away from the track.
"I know the Broncos are playing, but they don't play until Sunday night – so I can't even watch that to take my mind off it," he said with a laugh. "And the Panthers, the way they've been playing this year, I don't want to watch them. Maybe I'll go up there (to Martinsville) and watch from the roof and see what I can learn. I don't think there's anything bad about doing that.
"I'm a racer, I love being around the racetrack and the people at the racetrack. As tough as it would be to be there and not be in the car, you've got to take the punches as they come from that standpoint."