Regan Smith hopes to make the most of his chance to drive for Hendrick Motorsports while Dale Earnhardt Jr. recovers from injury.
Smith was set to drive for Phoenix Racing this weekend at Charlotte after losing his seat at Furniture Row Racing to ex-Phoenix man Kurt Busch. However, following Earnhardt's concussion diagnosis, Smith got the call to replace NASCAR's most popular driver for the next two Sprint Cup Series races.
Smith said he only learned of the Hendrick chance hours before opening practice on Thursday.
"It's an exciting opportunity for me," said Smith. "I hate the circumstances surrounding it, obviously Dale's safety and getting healthy are the most important two things right now. But with that said it's a great opportunity for me to hop in a racecar.
"The past four weeks have been about as much up and down as any four weeks in my life between what was going on with the 78 [Furniture Row car]. As of yesterday I was in South Carolina getting fitted for the 51 car to hop in the Phoenix Racing Chevy this weekend and this morning at seven o'clock I was at Hendrick Motorsports getting ready to hop in the 88 this weekend.
"It's been a lot going on and I just want to do these guys proud and run as good as we can with this car. It's the same goals this team has every weekend, we want to go out there and try to win the pole and try to win the race."
Team boss Rick Hendrick said his team had spoken had already been discussing a 2013 Nationwide program with Smith.
"We've been talking about running in the Nationwide car for the championship," Hendrick said. "He's a good driver – Dale likes him and we're familiar with him."