2008 Ride: No. 01 Dale Earnhardt Inc. Chevrolet
2008 Primary Sponsor: The Principal Financial Group
2008 Owner: Teresa Earnhardt
2008 Crew Chiefs: Doug Richert (Feb. – May); Kevin Buskirk (Coca-Cola 600); Dan Stillman (June – Nov.)
Stats: 34 races, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 0 top 10s, 34th in points
Best Finish: 14th – twice (Martinsville – March and Bristol – August)
Low Point: …only to have NASCAR penalize him for going “out of bounds” below the yellow line, placing him back in 18th, the last car on the lead lap.
Summary: After a slow start to the season, Smith finished 14th at Martinsville in the spring to kickstart his rookie campaign. He followed that with six top-25 finishes over the next 15 events, and capped it off with another 14th-place finish in the summer race at Bristol, tying his best finish of ’08. Smith had five more top 25s in the last third of the season, including the controversial 18th-place run at Talladega, as he gained valuable experience in his transition into the Sprint Cup Series. Although he had no top fives or top 10s, Smith was running at the end of every race, becoming the first rookie in history running a full schedule to accomplish the feat. His performance was good enough to earn the honor of being awarded the 2008 Rookie of the Year.
Off-Track News: Smith won the 2008 CARQUEST Pro Stock Tour IWK 250 at Riverside International Speedway back in July.
Team Ranking: Smith’s car was the lowest ranked among the four full-time DEI teams.
2009 Outlook: Smith will join Furniture Row Racing in 2009, driving the No. 78 Chevrolet for a limited schedule of about 10-12 events. Considering the team’s lack of sponsorship, don’t look for him to set the world on fire. But given the economy’s effect on racing and his late release from DEI, driving for Furniture Row is better than not racing at all.
Quote of the Year: On the last lap pass at Talladega – “I had a nose inside [Tony Stewart] and my only alternative was to wreck ‘em, so next time that’s what I’ll do (laughs). And that’s not a knock against Tony. I like Tony a lot. He’s a great guy, but I wanted to win pretty damn bad there.”
2008 Frontstretch Grade: B-