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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)
Jeffrey Earnhardt, driver of the #55 Fronius USA/Viva Auto Group Chevrolet, spins out during the NASCAR XFINITY Series Hisense 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 28, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Regan Smith, interim driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS finishes in sixteenth place in the Daytona 500 Sunday, February 22, 2015 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by HHP/Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS races to a third place finish with Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS who finishes in fifth place in the Daytona 500 Sunday, February 22, 2015 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by HHP/Alan Marler for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, and Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Percision Chevrolet, lead the field during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 57th Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 22, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, and Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 5-hour ENERGY Toyota, race three-wide during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 57th Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 22, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Chris Buescher, driver of the #60 Kellogg/Cheez-It Ford, races Brad Keselowski, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 ENEOS Chevrolet, and Ryan Reed, driver of the #16 Lilly/American Diabetes Association Ford, during the NASCAR XFINITY Series Alert Today Florida 300 at Daytona International Speedway on February 21, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Erik Jones, driver of the #20 GameStop/Rock Candy Toyota, Darrell Wallace Jr., driver of the #6 Ford EcoBoost Ford, and Landon Cassill, driver of the #01 Flex Seal Chevrolet, race three-wide during the NASCAR XFINITY Series Alert Today Florida 300 at Daytona International Speedway on February 21, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Regan Smith, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet, speaks at a press conference prior to practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 57th Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 21, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Hendrick Motorsports team mates (left) Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet and (right) Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet celebrate in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Budweiser Duel 1 at Daytona International Speedway on February 19, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Alex Bowman, driver of the #7 Toy State/Nikko Chevrolet, and Sam Hornish Jr., driver of the #9 Twisted Tea Ford, are involved in an on-track incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Budweiser Duel 2 at Daytona International Speedway on February 19, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Budweiser Duel 1 at Daytona International Speedway on February 19, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Budweiser Duel 1 at Daytona International Speedway on February 19, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Johnny Sauter, driver of the #83 Dustless Blasting Toyota, and AJ Allmendinger, driver of the #47 Kroger/USO Chevrolet, are involved in an on-track incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Budweiser Duel 1 at Daytona International Speedway on February 19, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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