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Regan Smith shelves Sprint Cup hopes, sticks with JR Motorsports on 1-year extension

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KANSAS CITY, Kansas — Regan Smith still dreams of driving for a Sprint Cup team again. He just isn't in such a hurry that he was willing to give up a pretty sweet gig.

Smith has agreed to a one-year extension with JR Motorsports to continue driving in the Nationwide Series, which will be rebranded the Xfinity Series next season.

Smith, who is second in points heading into Saturday's race at Kansas Speedway, said the opportunity to continue driving for Dale Earnhardt Jr. on a championship-caliber team was a big enough incentive to put less certain Sprint Cup opportunities on hold.

"I definitely want to get back to Cup. I don't think I ever denied that or said I don't," he said. "I think a lot has to play out on the Cup side. Some quality race teams are trying to figure out what they're going to be doing, but at the time, it just felt like it was time to start solidifying things."

Smith has three wins over the past two seasons for JR Motorsports. He has seven top-five finishes this season. That's been good enough to keep him with striking distance of teammate Chase Elliott, who leads the point standings with five races to go.

"I've been fortunate to have a great place to call home," Smith said. "Good sponsors and fast cars, and as a driver that's something you always look for. You want an opportunity to go out there and showcase what you can do every week."

Make no mistake: He'd like to showcase it on Sundays, too. Smith has started 172 races in NASCAR's signature series, earning his only win in 2011 at Darlington Raceway.

But until the right opportunity pops up, Earnhardt is happy to keep him employed.

"I'm really happy that we're going to have basically a carbon copy of what we had this year next year," he said. "I'd like to race for that company one day. I'd like to keep it healthy for whenever that is, whenever I'm done with the Cup."

As for the one-year nature of Smith's contract, Earnhardt said it's just business.

"The Nationwide Series is a year-to-year deal. Our sponsorships are short-term compared to the Cup level, so our relationships with our drivers have to fit within those windows as well," he said. "It's nothing unusual to go year to year or every two years with a driver."

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