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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)
Danica Patrick, driver of the #10 GoDaddy Chevrolet, Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row Chevrolet, Trevor Bayne, driver of the #21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford, Justin Allgaier, driver of the #51 Brandt Professional Agriculture Chevrolet, and Michael Annett, driver of the #7 Allstate Peterbilt/Pilot Chevrolet, are involved in an incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 17, 2014 in Brooklyn, Michigan.  (Photo Credit: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Chris Buescher, driver of the #60 Nationwide Children`s Hospital Ford Mustang Ford takes the chequered flag to win the Nationwide Children`s 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on August 16, 2014 in Lexington, Ohio.  (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Chris Buescher, drives the #60 Nationwide Children`s Hospital Ford Mustang Ford during the Nationwide Children`s 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on August 16, 2014 in Lexington, Ohio.  (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Chris Buescher, driver of the #60 Nationwide Children`s Hospital Ford Mustang Ford, celebrates in victory lane after winning the Nationwide Children`s Hospital 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on August 16, 2014 in Lexington, Ohio.  (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/Getty Images)
Chris Buescher, driver of the #60 Nationwide Children`s Hospital Ford Mustang Ford, celebrates in victory lane after winning the Nationwide Children`s Hospital 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on August 16, 2014 in Lexington, Ohio.  (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/Getty Images)
Sam Hornish Jr., driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, leads the field at the start of the Nationwide Childrens`s Hospital 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on August 16, 2014 in Lexington, Ohio.  (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
AJ Allmendinger, driver of the #47 Scott Products Chevrolet SS, races to win Sunday, August 10, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen International in Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo by Christa L. Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
AJ Allmendinger, driver of the #47 Scott Products Chevrolet SS, celebrates his first Sprint Cup win Sunday, August 10, 2014 in the Cheez-It 355 race at Watkins Glen International in Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo by Christa L. Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
AJ Allmendinger, driver of the #47 Scott Products Chevrolet SS, celebrates his win Sunday, August 10, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen International in Watkins Glen, New York.  (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
AJ Allmendinger, driver of the #47 Scott Products Chevrolet SS, celebrates his first Sprint Cup win Sunday, August 10, 2014 in the Cheez-It 355 race at Watkins Glen International in Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo by Christa L. Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
AJ Allmendinger celebrates with the chequered flag at Watkins Glen International on Sunday, August 10 2014. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
AJ Allmendinger celebrates in victory lane at Watkins Glen International on Sunday, August 10 2014. (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
AJ Allmendinger and Marcos Ambrose lead the field to a restart at Watkins Glen International on Sunday, August 10 2014. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

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