by Ryan Isley
Writer’s Note: This is Part 5 in a 13-Part series. Each Friday from November 23rd to February 15th, Ryan will make a prediction for the 2013 NASCAR season spanning over all three main touring series – Sprint Cup Series, Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series. On February 8th and 15th, Ryan will predict the 12 drivers who will make the NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase and the Sprint Cup champion. You can check out all of the predictions here.
Regan Smith has two wins in 268 career starts combined in the Sprint Cup Series and the Nationwide Series. In 2013, he will surpass that number.
The fifth prediction for the 2013 NASCAR season is that Regan Smith will find victory lane at least three times in the Nationwide Series for JR Motorsports. Smith drove the No.5 to victory lane at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the final Nationwide Series race of 2012 – the Ford 300 – and just may have provided a glimpse into the future.
JR Motorsports announced in October that they had signed Smith to a full-time ride in 2013 driving the No.5 car. The last time Smith drove in the Nationwide Series on a regular basis was in 2007 when he was entered in 17 races, finishing with three top-5s and five top-10s. It was an improvement over the previous season when Smith ran in all 35 races with just one top-10 finish.
Following the 2007 season, Smith had not been in a Nationwide Series car until he sat behind the wheel of the No.5 for JR Motorsports in that win at Homestead. Instead, Smith tried his hand in the Sprint Cup Series from 2008-2012.
Smith was the 2008 Sprint Cup Series rookie of the year while driving the No.01 car for Dale Earnhardt, Inc. even though he failed to register any top-10 finishes in his 34 races. Furniture Row Racing signed Smith for the 2009 season for a part-time schedule in the No.78 car. He was then given a full-time ride with Furniture Row beginning in 2010.
Smith’s first top-10 finish in the Sprint Cup Series came in the 2011 Daytona 500, where he finished seventh. He wouldn’t record another top-10 until none races later at the Showtime Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway – also his first and only win in the series. He had another top-5 in the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway when he finished third.
In 2012, Smith ran the first 30 races in the No.78 car before being replaced by Kurt Busch, posting three top-10 finishes. Smith was originally supposed to drive the No.51 car for Furniture Row for the final six races, but opportunity knocked and Smith answered.
When Dale Earnhardt, Jr. announced that he was going to miss two races after suffering a concussion, Hendrick Motorsports called on Smith to replace him in the No.88. Smith finished the first of two races in 38th after an engine failure but bounced back with a seventh-place finish at the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway.
Smith returned to the No.51 of Furniture Row for the final two races of 2012 but saw little success, finishing 24th and 30th.
Despite not having the success in Sprint Cup Series he would have liked, Smith finished on a high note with that Nationwide Series win at Homestead-Miami. I expect him to build on that win and have the best season of his career in 2013.
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