NASCAR Sprint Cup series team Tommy Baldwin Racing have announced that Regan Smith will drive their #7 Toy State/Nikko RC Chevrolet full-time this year, replacing 2015 driver Alex Bowman. The split between the team and Bowman came as a surprise, with Alex tweeting just a day earlier that he was looking forward to racing for the team this year.
The deal also came as a surprise for Smith, who admitted that the deal between him and Tommy Baldwin Racing was struck in a matter of days:
“It’s been a whirlwind last couple of days,” Smith told Dave Moody on his show on NASCAR radio, “I literally just found out. It’s been a wild few days for me. It was one of those situations where you have to catch your breath, pinch yourself and say, ‘Man, is this real? What’s going on here?’ I’ve pinched myself a few times. It is real and I’m pretty pumped about it.”
“I’m excited to get to work for Tommy Baldwin Racing,” Smith continued, “I can’t tell you how blessed I am. Man, I’m just ready to get to work. We’re both racers, so we’re going to work pretty damned hard.”
Smith comes back to Sprint Cup after 3 years in the XFINITY series having been dropped by Furniture Row in favour of Kurt Busch at the end of the 2012 Sprint Cup season; despite the fact that Smith had given the team their first ever Sprint Cup victory at Darlington the year before.
During the last few years in XFINITY, Regan won 6 races for the JR Motorsports team; finishing in the top 4 in the drivers’ standings for the last 3 years in a row. He also returned to Sprint Cup on several occasions as a substitute driver, including twice for Stewart Haas Racing after Tony Stewart broke his leg in 2014 and when Kurt Busch was suspended at the beginning of 2015.
As for Alex Bowman, who had a best finish of 16th at last year’s Talladega Spring Race and qualified for every race except the season opening Daytona 500, he will now have to settle for a part-time ride with JR Motorsports in the XFINITY series; essentially trading places with Smith. He is currently set to race in 9 events, with several sprint cup drivers set to share the car throughout the year.
Smith’s return to the Sprint Cup Series will begin with the 2016 Daytona Speedweeks that start in mid-February a week before the Daytona 500 on February 21st.
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