Regan Smith settling in at Jr MotorsportsBy Roger Holtsclaw
Jr Motorsports has had it’s share of good drivers since the team’s inception in 1999. A driver list that includes the defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, Brad Keselowski. One thing has eluded the team however, the series points lead.
Late last season Regan Smith ended his multi-year relationship with Furniture Row Racing and found himself looking for a job. It just so happened that the last race Smith drove the #78 was the same race that Hendrick Motorsports driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr suffered a concussion and would have to sit out a few weeks.
Smith got the call to drive the #88 Amp Energy Chevy at Charlotte. This would be a fantastic opportunity for Smith to showcase his talents as he looked for a permanent job. Unfortunately, engine troubles ended Smith’s day early. He did receive a second chance the following week at Kansas and was very impressive. Though he struggled in qualifying, he performed well all day and drove to a solid seventh place finish. Smith would then miss a few races before ending up in James Finch’s #51 for the final two races of the season.
His performance obviously garnered the attention of Jr Motorsports. He was tabbed to drive the #5 Hendrickcars.com Chevy in the season ending Nationwide Series race at Homestead. That decision paid off. Smith qualified tenth for the event and led 24 laps en route to victory! It was Smith’s first win in the series in his 103rd start.
Thanks to that performance Smith was hired to drive the #7 NNS entry vacated by Danica Patrick at the end of 2012. The team signed Tax Slayer as a sponsor and would attempt to compete for the 2013 Nationwide Series championship.
The beginning of 2013 saw several teams turn part time rides into full time championship contenders. One example is Joe Gibbs Racing, who has been dominate in the series for several years hired Elliott Sadler and Brian Vickers to chase the title. Penske driver Sam Hornish wil also compete for the title along with Roush-Fenway Racing driver, Trevor Bayne, who will fill the seast of the 2012 series champion, Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
The 2013 season is probably the most impressive field of talent the Nationwide Series has seen in many years. The driver who comes out on top this year will definitely earn it. Smith has been strong thus far. Coming into this weekend, Smith has a string of five straight top ten finishes and finds himself only point behind series leader Sam Hornish who is having a career best season. Smith only has two starts at NASCAR’s largest track, with a best finish of eleventh.
Smith and the #7 Tax Slayer Chevy will start 20th in Saturdays Aaron’s 312.