Regan Smith excited for 2014 season with JRM
January 11, 2014, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com
Last year's two-time winner talks about upcoming season, addition of Chase Elliott to JRM
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Regan Smith will have a new crew chief as well as a new teammate for 2014 at JR Motorsports, as Chase Elliott joins the NASCAR Nationwide Series organization and Ryan Pemberton moves over to call the shots for Smith’s No. 7 Chevrolet team.
"Having a teammate is going to be great, and that’s not to say I didn’t have one last year," Smith said during Saturday’s lunch break here during Preseason Thunder at Daytona International Speedway. "We just had different ones everywhere we went last year, and it was tough to get that week-in and week-out balance of knowing what that guy’s … 'OK, he’s saying this, how does that relate to our car?' We really didn’t have the opportunity to lean on that at all."
Brad Sweet, Kasey Kahne, Ron Fellows, Jimmie Johnson, Jamie McMurray, Jeffrey Earnhardt and Johnny O'Connell all started at least one race in the team’s No. 5 entry.
Elliott, son of 1988 NASCAR Cup champion Bill Elliott, will be making his Nationwide Series debut this season, the car number has been changed to No. 9 (a nod to his father) and sponsorship will come from NAPA. Greg Ives, Smith’s crew chief last season, will oversee the team.
"There are a lot of things that are going to be different than the trucks he was in last year, and he’s going to have to learn as he goes," Smith said of Elliott. "But what we’re going to have is that consistency of the same guy in that seat.
"When we have our meetings, we’ll say 'what did they do in practice and how did it affect them?' We’re kind of going to know driver tendencies and what each driver things and … says before it even happens."
That consistency, Smith said, will make it easier to discern which setup changes might be beneficial during a race weekend.
Smith, twice a winner last year and third in points, said the crew chief move "just made the most sense."
"Ryan and myself have worked together before," he said. "He’s a veteran; he’s been around."
Pemberton, competition director at JRM, "got a different perspective" after he climbed down off the pit box, Smith said and their previous relationship – the two were paired at the former Ginn Racing in the Sprint Cup Series– "made it easy for me to pair back up with him and get back to work like we never skipped a beat.
"It’s going to do nothing but continue to make JR Motorsports strong, that combined with Ernie Cope coming in."
Cope will serve as crew chief for the team’s No. 88 Chevrolet, which will see owner/driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. behind the wheel as well as Kevin Harvick for selected races.
"We’ve just got a really solid core. Not only on paper (but) what we see in the shop," Smith said.
"I'm relatively new to the company … but even as somebody who's watched JR Motorsports for years prior, this is the strongest it's ever been. It's the most excited I think any of us have ever been going into a season about what's to come and what we're going to be capable of."