Mooresville, NC – Regan Smith will drive the No. 5 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports full-time during the 2013 NASCAR Nationwide Series season, the team announced on Wednesday.
Smith's signing with JRM comes one month after he was relieved of his driving duties in the No. 78 car for Furniture Row Racing in the Sprint Cup Series. To prepare for the upcoming season with Furniture Row, Kurt Busch took over as driver of the No. 78, starting with the Oct. 13 race at Charlotte.
Smith, 29, was originally scheduled to replace Busch in the No. 51 car for Phoenix Racing but substituted for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88 entry for Hendrick Motorsports after Earnhardt Jr. was forced to miss Charlotte and Kansas due to a concussion. He will return to competition this weekend at Martinsville.
JRM is owned by Earnhardt Jr. and his sister, Kelley Earnhardt Miller, as well as Rick Hendrick and Tony Eury Jr.
"This is an extremely good opportunity for me," Smith said in a team statement. "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."
Smith will make his debut with JRM in the Nov. 17 Nationwide season-finale at Homestead. He will join teammates Danica Patrick, who drives the No. 7 car, and rookie Cole Whitt, who is behind the wheel of the No. 88 entry.
Smith has competed in the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series since 2002 and Sprint Cup since 2007. In 2008, he earned rookie-of-the-year honors in Cup. His first win in NASCAR's premier series came in May 2011 at Darlington.
"Regan has always impressed me," Earnhardt Jr. said. "He gets the most of his car, no matter what he's driving or who he's driving for. He takes care of his cars and gets good finishes. With his experience and ability, we feel he can excel in our equipment. He has a super personality, and his ability to work with everyone here at JR Motorsports and Hendrick Motorsports will be important in getting us back to the winner's circle."
Smith has not raced in Nationwide since '07. He recorded three top-five finishes and five top-10s as well as a pole at Kentucky that year.
Last Sunday, Smith finished seventh in Earnhardt Jr.'s car at Kansas. He placed 38th at Charlotte due to engine failure. Smith finished a season-best fifth in his last start with Furniture Row at Talladega.
"It has been a whirlwind couple of weeks for me, but it's been great," he said. "Filling in for Dale Jr. was an honor, and it got me acclimated to the Hendrick Motorsports group, which obviously JR Motorsports works with hand in hand. I was glad to fill in for Dale Jr., and I'm happy that he's back in his race car this week at Martinsville."