Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s announcement on Thursday that he’d be sitting out Saturday night’s Bank of America 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway and the following race the following weekend at Kansas Speedway because of a concussion suffered in a last-lap wreck at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway on Oct. 7 has created a musical chairs-type situation that wound up with A.J. Allmendinger getting to race for the first time since his indefinite suspension from NASCAR in early July.
Regan Smith has been named as Earnhardt’s fill-in behind the wheel of the No. 88. Smith had previously committed to driving the No. 51 Chevrolet of Phoenix Racing for the Charlotte race. That car’s previous driver, Kurt Busch, has already left the Phoenix organization to start driving the car he’ll race in 2013 — the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet, previously driven by Smith.
With Smith making the temporary move to the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, the seat in the No. 51 opened up, creating the perfect opportunity for Allmendinger.
Allmendinger admitted during Sprint Cup Series qualifying on Thursday evening that he was a bit rusty, not having been in a Sprint Cup car in a competitive capacity since racing at Kentucky Speedway on June 30.
“I think I’m behind the car right now,” Allmendinger said. “The car’s pretty quick.”
It is unknown exactly how long Allmendinger will be behind the wheel of the No. 51. A Phoenix Racing official said recently that the team is waiting to secure sponsorship for 2013 before selecting a specific driver for next year.
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