Regan Smith is in prime position to give his new team JR Motorsports something it's never had -- a driver atop the NASCAR Nationwide Series points standings.
When the series rolls into Talladega Superspeedway for Saturday's Aaron's 312 (3:00 p.m. ET, ESPN), Sam Hornish Jr. will be sporting a slim one-point advantage over Smith.
After taking a five-year break from the NASCAR Nationwide Series to focus on his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career, Smith returned to the series for the final race of the 2012 season. He lost his seat at Furniture Row Racing with six races to go in the season and appeared in four of the last six races, splitting time between Hendrick Motorsports and Phoenix Racing.
During that time he searched for a full-time ride in 2013.
He landed with JR Motorsports' No. 5 team in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. In his first race with them, the 2012 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, he drove the Chevrolet to Victory Lane.
Seven races into the 2013 season, Smith is proving that co-owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. made the right decision by offering him the ride. All seven of his finishes thus far are top-15 performances, five of them top-10 performances.
Because of their success this year, it's normal for the No. 5 TaxSlayer.com team to expect their success to continue at Talladega. But, Smith knows its Talladega and you can't take anything for granted when it comes to the Alabama track.
"With this type of racing, absolutely anything can happen. No matter how much you prepare or how good your car is, it's Talladega," said Smith. "The best car doesn't always win the race there. We just want to keep our good finishes going."
If Smith is to pass Hornish in the standings this weekend at Talladega, he'll need to draw more upon his success this season than his previous success at the superspeedway. In two NASCAR Nationwide starts, Smith has finishes of 23rd and 37th -- not exactly the type of finish one wants when trying to claim the points lead.
In 11 NASCAR Sprint Cup races at the track, he has one top-five finish. Fortunately, the fifth-place showing came in his most recent trip -- fall 2012. In his one NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, he finished a respectable ninth.