Earnhardt Jr.’s replacement makes early CMS exit

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CONCORD, N.C. (AP) - Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s replacement made an early exit Saturday night in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Regan Smith, filling in for the concussed Earnhardt for at least two races, went to the garage with a blown engine early in the race.

Smith was running extremely well early having moved up from 26th to 10th before smoke began borrowing from his car. He said he wasn’t sure exactly what went wrong with the car, but immediately parked it behind the wall for the night.

“It’s disappointing and it’s a shame,” Smith said.

Smith also will drive Earnhardt’s No. 88 Chevrolet next week at Kansas.

“I’m getting more and more comfortable in these cars,” Smith said.

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KENSETH TAKES SPIN EARLY: Matt Kenseth couldn’t carry over his momentum from last week’s win at Talladega, spinning out and hitting the wall after his left rear tire went down minutes into the race.

Although Kenseth was able to continue, he fell a lap down and brought out the first caution. On the ensuing restart, defending NASCAR champion Tony Stewart ran into the back bumper of points leader Brad Keselowski.

Kenseth came into the Chase last in the 12-driver field, 62 points behind Keselowski.

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GORDON ON CONCUSSIONS: Earnhardt Jr. was praised by his competitors for having the guts to seek medical attention that led to him being sidelined Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

But, at least one driver wasn’t sure he’d do the same with a championship on the line.

“Honestly, I hate to say this, but no, I wouldn’t,” four-time champion Jeff Gordon said. “If I have a shot at the championship, there’s two races to go, my head is hurting, and I just came through a wreck, and I am feeling signs of it, but I’m still leading the points, or second in the points, I’m not going to say anything. I’m sorry.

“You know, that’s the competitor in me, and probably many other guys. And, that’s to a fault. That’s not the way it should be. It’s something that most of us, I think, would do. I think that’s what gets a lot of us in trouble.”

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