When Dale Earnhardt Jr. was cleared to climb back into the No. 88 for Sunday’s race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, that freed up Regan Smith to return to the No. 51 Chevrolet of Phoenix Racing he left before even driving to fill-in for Earnhardt at Hendrick Motorsports.
A.J. Allmendinger has driven the No. 51 in the last couple of races while Smith has driven the No. 88, but Smith’s availability hasn’t put Allmendinger out of the No. 51 seat just yet. Allmendinger will be behind the wheel of the No. 51 for two more races — Sunday’s event at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway and next weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.
Smith will then climb into the car to drive it in the last two races of the season at Phoenix International Raceway and Homestead-Miami Speedway in Novemeber.
Smith will also show up in Nationwide Series competition in the season-ending weekend at Homestead-Miami, driving a No. 5 entry for JR Motorsports. JRM announced on Wednesday that Smith would be in that car full-time in 2013.
No 2013 plans have been announced for Allmendinger, as of yet. He started out the year driving the No. 22 Dodge for Penske Racing, but lost that ride in early July when he was indefinitely suspended by NASCAR for violating the sanctioning body’s substance abuse policy. He was reinstated by NASCAR in September, and made his first-start since his return at Charlotte Motor Speedway a couple of weeks ago when he first climbed into the No. 51.
Smith started the year behind the wheel of the No. 78 of Furniture Row Racing. He lost that ride a few weeks ago when team officials decided to get a head start on 2013 with its new driver, Kurt Busch, former driver of the No. 51.
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