Regan Smith Seeking to Vault Self Back to Cup with Daytona 500 Win

Regan Smith Seeking to Vault Self Back to Cup with Daytona 500 Win

by February 22, 2015 0 comments

Photo credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — In September of 2012, Regan Smith found himself looking at the 2013 Sprint Cup season with uncertainty as it was announced that Kurt Busch was to replace him at Furniture Row Racing for the following year.

Following the announcement that he was to be replaced as the driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet, Smith was to complete the season by swapping rides with Busch, who was then the driver of the No. 51 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet.

However, when Dale Earnhardt Jr. was diagnosed with a concussion following October’s Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500 at Talladega and was unable to compete in the following two races at Charlotte and Kansas, Smith jumped at the opportunity to substitute for Earnhardt in his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.

Two days after his final race as a substitute, Earnhardt Jr’s XFINITY Series operation, JR Motorsports, formally announced that Smith was to drive full-time for the team in NASCAR’s second-tier series in 2013 (and in the final race of the 2012 season at Homestead, which he won.)

For Smith, 31, the opportunity to compete for wins and a championship in a lower national division sounded much more appealing than the option of running around mid-pack or towards the end of the field for a Sprint Cup back marker.

Smith’s move to the XFINITY Series has never been meant to be a permanent one. The current driver of the No. 7 Chevrolet Camaro in the XFINITY Series has made it no secret that his long-term goal in NASCAR is to race again in the Sprint Cup Series with a competitive team.

With the opportunity presented to him to drive as a substitute in today’s Daytona 500 for the recently-suspended Busch in his No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet, Smith aims to take home the Harley J. Earl trophy and firmly establish the fact that he can go toe-to-toe with NASCAR’s best at the Sprint Cup level.

“Any time you have a chance to hop in a race car that you know is fast and know is more than capable of winning races, it’s always an opportunity to showcase talent,” Smith said. “No matter where it is, no matter what the circumstances or situations are, you’ve got to always think that way and you’ve got to always be prepared that way.

“I think we have a shot to go out and win this race on Sunday. I absolutely think we do and I’m going to go out and do everything I can to make that happen. And if that helps maybe get me to a situation where we can sit here and talk about these things and have it be strictly because somebody hired me to drive their car, then that’s the goal to go prove to people that I need to be doing that on a full time basis for the right reasons.”

After shaking down his Tony Gibson-prepared No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in 13 laps in final practice on Saturday morning, Smith will start his seventh career Daytona 500 from the back of the grid later on this afternoon.

Follow Kyle Pokrefky on Twitter at @KPokrefky

Kyle Pokrefky
Follow Kyle Pokrefky on Twitter at @KPokrefky

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