When opportunity knocks... - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

NASCAR NOTES: When opportunity knocks...

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Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images for NASCAR Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images for NASCAR
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CHARLOTTE, NC -

My dad used to say that when opportunity knocks, make sure you answer. That knock came this week for young Regan Smith as he fills in for the injured Dale Earnhardt Jr. in Charlotte.

Earnhardt made the earthshattering announcement this morning at Charlotte Motor Speedway that he will be removing himself from the seat of his Hendrick Motorsport Chevrolet after being diagnosed with a concussion.

"We had a test at Kansas about five weeks ago, and we blew a right front tire going into Turn 1," said Earnhardt on where his injuries began. "You know your body, and you know how your mind works, and I knew something was just not quite right."

Made out of the same mold as his rugged father, Earnhardt tried to tough it out through the headaches associated with a concussion but, knew he had not fully healed after crashing again last week in Talladega.

"I was hit in the left rear quarter panel," continued Earnhardt of his accident last week. "It was sort of an odd kind of a collision where the car spun around really quick and just sort of disoriented me, and I knew that I had sort of regressed and had a bit of a setback."

Earnhardt knew he needed to seek help and contacted a Neurosurgeon, Dr. Jerry Petty. The doctor made the decision to have Earnhardt take a few weeks off to heal.

"He had no amnesia on either side of either of the incidents," said Dr. Petty on Jr's evaluation. "We want him to have four or five days after he has no headache and if that goes well, we'll probably clear him to race."

As Earnhardt takes some time to heal, Regan Smith will get the opportunity of a lifetime and fill his seat inside the No. 88 car.

"We've been talking about running him in the Nationwide car for a championship," said team owner Rick Hendrick on choosing Smith. "He's a good driver, and again, Dale likes him, and we're familiar with him."

Regan became available when Kurt Busch replaced him behind the wheel of the No.78 at Furniture Row Racing. He had planned on driving the No. 51 for Phoenix Racing but, when this opportunity came open, he knew he could not pass it up.

"I am very fortunate that I am the guy they chose to call," said Smith of his temporary ride. "I just want to go out and make the most of it. Run all 500 miles and see where we are at when it is all said and done."

Earnhardt said that he would not be at the track this week because he thought that it would be a distraction for the team but, that doesn't mean we won't see him again before the end of the year.

"I would love to race this weekend," said Earnhardt when asked when he would be back. "The basis of this whole deal is that I've had two concussions in the last four to five weeks and you can't layer concussions. It gets extremely dangerous."

So, with Earnhardt recovering, Smith has the opportunity to show what he can do in a quality ride. It is undoubtedly the best ride that he has had in his career and how he responds will certainly shape his future in the sport. Most in the garage wish him good luck.

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