NASCAR & Auto Racing

Daytona buzz: Driver Regan Smith is on baby watch

Regan Smith walked past Kurt Busch’s car during practice Saturday for the Daytona 500. Smith will be replacing Busch in the car for the race.
Regan Smith walked past Kurt Busch’s car during practice Saturday for the Daytona 500. Smith will be replacing Busch in the car for the race. The Associated Press

Regan Smith, who will replace suspended Kurt Busch in Sunday’s Daytona 500, and his wife are expecting the couple’s first child, a son, within the next two weeks.

Smith, however, won’t miss the Daytona race, no matter what happens on the home front.

“My wife and I have a very good relationship, obviously; we’re having a kid,” Smith said, smiling. “We’ve had those discussions prior to this even happening. Obviously, it’s a big opportunity for me to be able to race that car.

“I’ve asked her to keep her legs crossed as long as she can if she does go into labor … and we’ll do what we can to make sure I get back as quick as I can. But I will race (on Sunday).”

Phillips nominated for Hall of Fame

Missouri short-track legend Larry Phillips is one of 20 nominees for the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Phillips, who is deceased, was nominated for the third time. He is the only five-time NASCAR weekly series national champion, having won 220 of 289 NASCAR-sanctioned events and 13 track championships in three states during 1989-2001.

Former Sprint Cup champion Alan Kulwicki, driver Mark Martin and crew chief Ray Evernham are among the first-time nominees. The other nominees include Harry Hyde, Herschel McGriff, Buddy Baker, Red Byron, Richard Childress, Jerry Cook, Ray Fox, Rick Hendrick, Bobby Isaac, Terry Labonte, Raymond Parks, Benny Parsons, Bruton Smith, Mike Stefanik, Curtis Turner and Robert Yates.

Five inductees will be elected by the NASCAR Hall of Fame Voting Panel, which includes a nationwide fan vote on NASCAR.com. Voting day for the 2016 class will be May 20.

Glad to be in field

Landon Cassill was one of several longshots from modestly funded teams who successfully raced their way into the Daytona 500 field.

Just to start in the Daytona 500 will go a long way toward funding a season for single-car teams like Cassill’s and those of Casey Mears, Michael McDowell and Cole Whitt, who made the field based on qualifying speeds.

A year ago, Cassill, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, finished 12th in the Daytona 500, and Hillman Racing received $306,850. Even the last-place finisher, Martin Truex Jr., earned $292,311 for one-car Furniture Row Racing.

“Seventy-five percent of our budget is prize money,” said Cassill, 25, whose team lacks the multimillion dollar sponsorships of the big teams. “The way prize money averages out in a regular race, the race on Sunday, it takes us three races to get that.

“When a majority of your team’s budget is off the prize money, there are a lot of things that have already been purchased that just haven’t been paid for yet. The check that’s coming after Sunday’s race is going to pay for that. That’s how it works. It’s hard to dig out of that hole if you don’t make it.”

To reach Randy Covitz, call 816-234-4796 or send email to rcovitz@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter at @randycovitz.

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