News 3 reasons Regan Smith will do just fine as NASCAR’s latest substitute driver

20:26  18 may  2017
20:26  18 may  2017 Source:   ftw.usatoday.com

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Regan Smith celebrates after winning the SHOWTIME Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway in 2011. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images). Talent will only get you so far on the track and drivers rely heavily on their experience, so more than 200 races is pretty good for a substitute .

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3 reasons Regan Smith will do just fine as NASCAR's latest substitute driver© Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports 3 reasons Regan Smith will do just fine as NASCAR's latest substitute driver After Aric Almirola fractured his T5 vertebra in a terrible, fiery wreck during the Go Bowling 400 last weekend, Richard Petty Motorsports quickly realized it needed a replacement driver for Saturday's Monster Energy Open.

So the team tapped Regan Smith - who's been competing in the Camping World Truck Series this season - to pilot the No. 43 Ford this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

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The 33-year-old is no stranger to the Cup Series, and although it's unclear how long Smith might have to fill in for sidelined Almirola - RPM is having a press conference to discuss it Friday - here are three reasons why he could do well this weekend.

1. He's done this before

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Smith has experience on his side when it comes to subbing in for full-time drivers, and this will be the fifth time he's had to lend a hand.

In 2012, he filled in for Dale Earnhardt Jr., who missed two races after being diagnosed with a concussion, and in 2014, he replaced Tony Stewart in one event the day after Stewart struck and killed Kevin Ward Jr. in a dirt track race. He also jumped in for Kurt Busch and Kyle Larson in 2015.

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This weekend at Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania, he will take the wheel of the No. 43 Ford — the same number made famous by Hall of Famer Richard Petty — and make history as just the eighth black driver to race in NASCAR ’ s top Cup series. Regan Smith served as substitute for two races.

2. He has 211 Cup Series starts

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Talent will only get you so far on the track and drivers rely heavily on their experience, so more than 200 races is pretty good for a substitute. Although Smith has yet to start a Cup Series race in 2017, over the last 10 years, he competed in at least half of the season's races six times and was a full-time driver in 2016.

He even has one win - a 2011 victory at Darlington Raceway in the Showtime Southern 500. One win out of 211 isn't a lot, but it's better than plenty of the current full-time drivers. He's also earned 13 top 10 finishes over the years.

3. No points, less pressure

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The good news for Smith is his first 2017 Cup race doesn't award playoff points or a boost in the driver standings. Nope, the Monster Energy Open is the gateway event to the All-Star Race later Saturday night, where the Open's three stage winners - along with a fan-voted driver - will round out the 20-car field for the main event.

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Regan Smith will drive the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford in Saturday night' s Monster Energy Open (6 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Latest Galleries. Xfinity Series Dash 4 Cash drivers for Talladega. Five to Watch: Richmond.

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This weekend's race is all about fun - and the $1 million all-star prize - so it's a great opportunity for Smith to ease himself back into the Cup Series without the pressure of having to earn points for Richard Petty Motorsports.

He was a great choice to fill in while Almirola recovers, and RPM isn't alone with its confidence in him.


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