Regan Smith will drive for Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s JR Motorsports team in the NASCAR Nationwide Series on a full-time basis next season, the team announced Wednesday.
Smith, who recently lost his Sprint Cup Series ride at Furniture Row Racing, signed with JR Motorsports to drive the team's No. 5 car, which will be sponsored by Taxslayer.com. He'll start driving for JRM beginning with the Homestead Nationwide race.
"Regan has always impressed me," Earnhardt Jr. said in a statement. "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 called it an "extremely good opportunity" and said he had been talking about the possibility for "several years."
"The timing never matched up to where we could make it happen," Smith said. "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."
JRM plans to run two full-time teams – the No. 5 (Smith) and the No. 7 (possibly Cole Whitt, depending on sponsorship) – with Earnhardt Jr. driving select races in the No. 88 car. The team and sponsors wanted Earnhardt Jr. to be in a No. 88 for both Sprint Cup and Nationwide for the sake of consistency.
"That's what makes him distinguishable on the race track, so it's only natural that he drives the No. 88 all the time," general manager Kelley Earnhardt Miller said. "To do that, we are making our No. 5 Chevrolet our full-time entry."
Smith's signing comes amidst a variety of changes at JRM. Competition director Tony Eury Sr. was fired, and crew chief/co-owner Tony Eury Jr. left soon after that.
Eury Jr. had suggested the team's woes – it hasn't won since 2010 – were due to the lack of a Cup driver. Inexperienced racers Danica Patrick and Whitt had driven the team's entries this season to little success.
Now JRM has a Cup driver, but Eury Jr. is gone. With Ryan Pemberton now running the show, JRM is expecting to take better advantage of its close engineering relationship with Hendrick Motorsports.