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Smith signs 2013 Nationwide deal at JR Motorsports

Regan Smith will compete full time in the 2013 NASCAR Nationwide Series, after signing a deal to drive for Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s team.
Regan Smith has been handed a full season in the 2013 NASCAR Nationwide Series, after signing a deal to race for the JR Motorsports team owned and operated by Cup driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Smith has just finished a two-week stint sitting in for Earnhardt in the #88 Hendrick Motorsports Cup car, after the announcement that Earnhardt had been sidelined from races in Charlotte and Kansas following a double concussion.

Smith had previously been racing for the Furniture Row Racing team in the #78 car, but left the squad after Talladega following the announcement that the team had signed Kurt Busch to take the ride in 2013. That leaves Smith without a confirmed Sprint Cup Series drive next season.

Smith had planned to see out the rest of the current season as a stand-in driver at Phoenix Racing in a straight swap with Busch, but was then handed the two-race stand-in opportunity at Hendrick instead and opted to take that. Phoenix brought in AJ Allmendinger to drive their #51 car, and announced on Tuesday that Allmendinger will remain in the car for the next two races at Martinsville and Texas.

Smith said earlier this week that he completely understood why Phoenix Racing owner James Finch had needed to make the call when he did, admitting that that team "just had to be able to commit to something" and hadn't been able to wait around until Earnhardt's medical status was confirmed one way or another.

"For a time period there, we were just having to wait and see a little bit to see how things went at his test," explained Smith. "I think everybody was anticipating things were fine and the test was going to go fine, but there was that little bit of wait-and-see moment, and [Phoenix Racing] had to be able to work toward what they were doing at Martinsville."

However, the team has now also said that they will bring back Smith to race for them in the final two events of the 2012 season at Phoenix, Arizona and at Homestead, Miami in November. That means that it's still possible that Smith will find a 2013 Cup ride with Phoenix Racing to go along with his confirmed Nationwide Series outings at JR Motorsport.

Whatever his Cup future, Smith said that he was delighted to be heading back to the Nationwide championship next year at the wheel of the #5 JR Motorsports car. He last competed in the series in 2007.

"This is an extremely good opportunity for me," said Smith of the deal announced on Wednesday. "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.




Related Pictures

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Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Diet Mountain Dew/National Guard Chevrolet, stands by his car during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway on September 7, 2012 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 AMP Energy/Diet Mtn. Dew/National Guard Chevrolet, signs autographs for fans during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 21, 2012 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. drives the #88 Dale Jr. Foundation/National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet through the garage during practice for the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 18, 2012, in Charlotte, N.C. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Regan Smith climbs out of the No.78 Furniture Row Chevrolet after winning the Showtime Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. [Picture credit: Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Regan Smith, driver of the #88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet, is interviewed on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on October 11, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo Credit: Tyler Barrick/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, pits during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway on September 28, 2014 in Dover, Delaware.  (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Dover 200 at Dover International Speedway on September 27, 2014 in Dover, Delaware.  (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Hertz Ford, and Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, lead the field at the start of the NASCAR Nationwide Series Dover 200 at Dover International Speedway on September 27, 2014 in Dover, Delaware. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Dover 200 at Dover International Speedway on September 27, 2014 in Dover, Delaware. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, crosses the finish line to win the NASCAR Nationwide Series Dover 200 at Dover International Speedway on September 27, 2014 in Dover, Delaware. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Derrike Cope, driver of the #70 youtheory Chevrolet, and Jamie Dick, driver of the #55 VIVA Auto Group Chevrolet, spin out after an incident during the NASCAR Nationwide Series Dover 200 at Dover International Speedway on September 27, 2014 in Dover, Delaware. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, stands on pit road during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway on September 26, 2014 in Dover, Delaware. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Brendan Gaughan, driver of the #62 South Point Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag to win the NSACAR Nationwide Series VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 at Kentucky Speedway on September 20, 2014 in Sparta, Kentucky. (Photo Credit: Andy Lyons/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brendan Gaughan, driver of the #62 South Point Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 at Kentucky Speedway on September 20, 2014 in Sparta, Kentucky. (Photo Credit: Daniel Shirey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brendan Gaughan, driver of the #62 South Point Chevrolet, celebrates with his crew after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 at Kentucky Speedway on September 20, 2014 in Sparta, Kentucky. (Photo Credit: Andy Lyons/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Ty Dillon, driver of the #3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet, poses with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying first for the NASCAR Nationwide Series VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 at Kentucky Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Sparta, Kentucky. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet SS qualified for eleventh position September 19, 2014 for Sunday`s Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Earnhardt, Jr. is in the Chase which continues with the Challenger 16 for this and next week`s race. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet, prepares for practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Jared Wickerham/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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