For the first time since 2012, Regan Smith has a full-time Sprint Cup ride. He spoke about his return during Daytona 500 Media Day.
Smith has spent the last three years in the Xfinity Series, driving the No. 7 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports. But after losing that ride and a few tense months, he is back in the Sprint Cup Series ... Full-time.
Tense, "unenjoyable" offseason due to uncertain future
"It feels good," he told Motorsport.com about securing a ride for 2016. "Even three weeks ago, I had no idea what was going on. Got the phone call from Tommy (Baldwin) and everything happened quick. Next thing I know, I'm coming to Daytona, racing and full-time with a charter. It's probably one of the craziest off-seasons I've ever been a part of. Probably one of the most unenjoyable, to be honest with you. By the time it all played out, it turned out to be one of the better off-seasons for me."
He later added, “I didn’t know if I was going to race again period. I really didn’t know. I had a lot of those questions in my head."
Before this late deal with TBR came about, Smith began looking for opportunities outside of the cockpit, doing things with both Fox Sports and NASCAR Media. "I had some Xfinity stuff that was kind of lined up, but nothing that was going to be a long-term deal.
"I was kind of -- pardon the expression, shitting razor blades, to be brutally honest."
But now he's back - not just in NASCAR, but at the Cup level. "It's been impressive to see what Tommy has put together and what he's building. He's really got something special going on and now with partners like Toy State and Golden Corral and having the charter. You can see that confidence from the shop, from Tommy, and it's been a big deal. As that charter evolves, I think it's going to be a huge deal for the small teams."
"The little team that could"
Motorsport.com asked the 33-year-old if this new gig is comparable to his tenure with Furniture Row. He joined the single-car operation in 2009 and won the 2011 Southern 500 at Darlington before the two abruptly split towards the end of 2012. Now, Furniture Row is a championship-caliber organization, making the Final Four in the 2015 Chase.
"I see this as an opportunity to help build something and help it continue to grow," he said.
"We can grow this. We can do what Furniture Row has done. I'd like to see it through this time and not see it go away (laughs). This is definitely an opportunity to get back into the Cup Series, but at the same time, it's an opportunity to help a small team grow and be a part of that.
"Let’s go out, have a good week and show that we’re the little team that could and can.”
After finishing 15th in his Duel race, Smith will start his eighth Daytona 500 from 27th on the grid.