Things will look at little different at JR Motorsports next year, and one of those changes will be a new driver — Regan Smith. the team announced on Wednesday that it has signed Smith to drive the No. 5 Nationwide Series car full-time in 2013. Smith will actially climb into the car for the first time in a competitive environment in the 2012 series finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway next month.
“This is an extremely good opportunity for me,” Smith said. “Dale Jr. and I first started talking about this several years ago, but the timing never matched up to where we could make it happen. Now it’s time. I’m happy to be a part of this organization. I don’t want to just win races. I want to be the team that dominates races and contends for the championship.”
Right now, the No. 7 and No. 88 cars are the full-time rides at JRM, with Danica Patrick driving the No. 7 and Cole Whitt the No. 88. Patrick is moving on to the Sprint Cup Series full-time next year to drive the No. 10 for Stewart-Haas Racing. No plans have been announced for Whitt for next year. The No. 5 car is currently a part-time entry for JR Motorsports, fielded for team co-owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. and a handful of other Sprint Cup drivers throughout the season.
According to team co-owner Kelly Earnhardt Miller, the organization has decided to make the No. 88 the part-time team for Earnhardt to drive when he competes in the Nationwide Series to be consistent with his No. 88 in the Sprint Cup Series.
According to a press release from JRM, the organization hopes to field both the No. 5 and the No. 7 full-time next year, but as of now, specific plans are only in place for the No. 5 and Smith.
Smith last competed in the Nationwide Series in 2007. In his most recent season in the series, he posted three top-fives and five top-10 finishes. He moved up to the Sprint Cup level the next year, claiming series Rookie of the Year honors in 2008. Last year, he posted his one and only Sprint Cup win, visiting victory lane at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.
“Regan has always impressed me,” Earnhardt said. “He gets the most of his car, no matter what he’s driving or who he’s driving for. He takes car of his cars and gets good finishes. With his experience and ability, we feel he can excel in our equipment.”
Smith lost his Sprint Cup ride at Furniture Row Racing to Kurt Busch a few weeks ago, and has spent the last couple of race weekends at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Kansas Speedway filling in for Earnhardt in the No. 88 Sprint Cup car as Earnhardt was sidelined with a concussion.
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