Few drivers have had better debuts than what Regan Smith had for JR Motorsports. In his first race for the company, he won. Smith’s victory at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 17, 2012, was a historical feat in that it was his first-career NASCAR Nationwide Series victory. Yet it was no more than typical for a racing career chock full of shocking moments and underdog heroics.
A native of Cato, N.Y., Smith landed his first big opportunity in 2002 with rides in both the NASCAR Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series. He then struck gold in 2007 when he was chosen as the driver to split time with Mark Martin in the No. 01 Chevrolet at Ginn Racing. He competed in seven races in 2007 and 34 in 2008. His 2008 performance led to a Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the Year award, but it wasn’t until 2011 with Furniture Row Racing that Smith made his biggest splash.
On a sultry May night in Darlington, S.C., Smith started the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet 23rd in the prestigious Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. While respecting the grueling treatment Darlington’s ridged surface and tight configuration does to race cars, Smith stealthily worked his way toward the front, passing cars with bigger budgets and drivers with more popular names. After 11 caution flags and many lead changes, all that remained was a green-white-checkered restart – a two-lap, white-knuckled sprint to the finish. Leading the field was a plain black car with basic orange decals and Regan Smith’s name above the window net. Smith was two laps away from a life-changing moment, but starting behind him was point-leader Carl Edwards. When the green flag dropped, Smith accelerated through the gears and fended off Edwards’ attacks. He maintained his lead through the first lap and thwarted Edwards’ attempts to pass on the second to keep his lead and score the storybook win – Smith’s first in NASCAR competition.
Prior to that, Smith’s closest chance of victory came in 2008 when he appeared to have won the AMP Energy 500 at Talladega Superspeedway driving the No. 01 Chevrolet for Dale Earnhardt Inc. But shortly after the race, NASCAR assessed a penalty on Smith for passing Tony Stewart below the yellow line – a move deemed illegal in the NASCAR rulebook. The win was handed to Stewart, and Smith was relegated to an 18th-place finish.
Smith began racing at the young age of 4. He made a steady climb through the World Karting Association at age 12, where he won three championships in three years. Smith took his next step into the Allison Legacy Series in 1999. He earned the series championship and rookie-of-the-year honors before moving on to the USAR Pro Cup Series. In the span of only one season, he earned four poles, including three in a row, which was a series record.
On Oct. 24, 2012, it was announced that Smith would be JR Motorsports’ new driver for 2013 after a four-year stint at Furniture Row Racing. With the 2012 season winding down, the decision was made to enter Smith in the season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway to get acclimated to new equipment and provide feedback for application in the off-season of building and preparation. But Smith’s performance proved more than a data-collecting effort. He won the race, leading 24 laps to score JR Motorsports’ 10th overall victory and first in more than two years.
Away from the track Smith enjoys snowboarding, playing video games, watching hockey, and spending time with his wife Megan. His favorite sports teams include the Carolina Hurricanes in the NHL and the Denver Broncos in the NFL.