With a victory in the season-opening DRIVE4COPD at Daytona International Speedway last Saturday night, Regan Smith got his season off to a thrilling start by edging out Brad Keselowski at the finish line by .013 seconds – the seventh closest finish in NASCAR Nationwide Series history and second closest in series history at Daytona. The win sets him on the right track to accomplish his primary goal this season – win JR Motorsports its first title.
“This year there’s two goals, that’s to win Junior Motorsports their first championship and for me to prove to the right owner that I belong racing on Sundays,” Smith said after the race. “But that first goal is the primary goal.”
If history is any indication, by achieving his first goal Smith could find himself racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series on Sundays in the near future. Fifteen of the past 16 NNS championships (dating back to 1998 when JR Motorsports owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. won his first NASCAR driver’s title) were won by drivers currently competing fulltime in NASCAR’s highest level, including 2013 champion Austin Dillon.
The next step in Smith’s quest to accomplish his primary goal is finishing well in Saturday’s Blue Jeans Go Green 200 presented by Cotton, The Fabric of Our Lives at Phoenix International Raceway. In six series starts at the one-mile track he’s posted one top-five (fourth place in last November’s race) and two top-10 finishes. In nine NSCS starts at the track, Smith has never finished better than 20th. In two NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts at Phoenix, his best finish is 30th.
Smith arrives in Phoenix with a six-point advantage over Trevor Bayne in the points standings. Elliott Sadler (-eight), Brendan Gaughan (-nine) and Ty Dillon (-10) round out the top five. Smith’s four career wins have all come in the last 35 races. Last year Smith captured two of those victories (Talladega, Michigan), after winning the season finale in his only start of 2012.
In 2013, Smith led the points standings for 10 consecutive weeks before ultimately finishing third in the final standings behind Austin Dillon and Sam Hornish Jr.