Following a second place finish in the points standings, Regan Smith is back with JR Motorsports vowing for the championship title once again.
Looking Back at 2014
Smith started off the year in style, winning the season opening race at Daytona International Speedway in a close finish. From then on, he was solid throughout the majority of the year, posting 26 top-10s in the 33 races. However, the races that he found himself outside of the top-10, whether due to handling, penalty or a wreck, it was just enough to give the advantage to his teammate Chase Elliott for the championship. As a result, Smith found himself falling short of the title, again. In 2013, it was a third place points finish. For last year, he finished second. The good news was JR Motorsports still got the championship with Elliott and had a spectacular 1-2 finish in points.
Looking Ahead To 2015
Over the past two years, Regan Smith’s work with the team, among others, has helped JR Motorsports become the top XFINITY only team in the series. They may not have the wins that Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske’s Sprint Cup Series stars do, but they’re leading their pack for their own. With a lack of rule changes, if they come out with the same solid package and don’t allow others to catch-up, it could be another championship year for the organization. Though, if they’re able to find the small things that have them off of the top two, then they could add more wins to win column.
As noted above, Smith finished third in 2013, and second in points last year. So it should make sense that this year is his year to win the championship. There’s only one thing that stands in his way – Chase Elliott. Now if last year’s run was any indication, he’ll be tough to beat again as noted in his season preview last week.
There could also be another snag in the plan. Smith has worked with Ryan Pemberton the past two years. This upcoming year, Pemberton is going to focus solely on his position as competition director. This will hand Smith a new crew chief in the form of Jason Burdett. Burdett comes into the program with no crew chief experience, but has worked as the car chief for both Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Hendrick Motorsports. We’ve seen in the past the success that the HMS ladder system produces in crew chiefs – Greg Ives, Chad Knaus and Darian Grubb are three key names in that respect. Therefore, Burdett should fit in and be able to handle the position with ease. However, if he has any hiccups or doesn’t jell with Smith, then the No. 7 team could be in for a long season.