The Southern 500 at Darlington is one of the most prestigious events that NASCAR holds annually since it’s 1950 with the exception of a few seasons. But the race returned several years ago and remains a fan favorite. The winner of that race in 2011 became an instant fan favorite as well.
It’s a story that has been told over and over again by hundreds of reporters since that over-ran the headlines of Justin Verlander’s no-hitter on the same afternoon.
Regan Smith’s victory over Carl Edwards was the only one which he has recorded within NASCAR’s top-three divisions over a career spanning 10-years with the exception of his win at the Homestead-Miami Speedway to end the NASCAR Nationwide Series season. If he opted to make a move on the outside of Tony Stewart at Talladega in 2008. After spending a few years with a mediocre team in Furniture Row Racing, running mid-pack week-in and week-out, Smith has finally landed a top notch ride.
Smith made his debut with JR Motorsports at the Homestead-Miami Speedway in the final race of the 2012 NASCAR Nationwide Series season in preparation for a full-schedule next season in the No. 5 Chevrolet. It was Smith’s first Nationwide Series race since 2007 as he led 24 laps en route to victory. Even though it took a while for Smith to get a feel back in the race car, the Cato, NY native was able to enter victory lane for the first time in 103 Nationwide Series events.
The victory should give smith and his JR Motorsports crew plenty of momentum entering the 2013 season which was assembled just weeks before the event. For next year, Smith will work with 33-year old crew chief, Greg Ives, who was Jimmie Johnson’s engineer throughout his five consecutive championships.
2013 will be a make or break season for Smith as he is a likely option to win the championship in the Nationwide Series over several top notch drivers which are making similar career decisions such as Smith has done. It may be starting to be seen quite too often within the sport, but for a driver that wasn’t able to take advantage of some of the early opportunities he received, Smith should make the most of it before returning to the Sprint Cup Series in the near future.
Joseph Wolkin can be followed on Twitter at @JosephNASCAR.