For many drivers, Daytona holds a magical aura - no matter how many times they've attended, no matter how old the driver is.
"Every time I drive through that tunnel, even if I leave to go to dinner and come back, you almost get goosebumps coming through here," Regan Smith said during testing. "To see the work that's going on, the project out front here, kind of makes me want to go hop in some equipment and play with it just a little bit."
Smith was one of the drivers took part in the pre-season test leading to the Nationwide Series season opening DRIVE4COPD 300 in February. Though with the test, Smith had a special teammate in the form of veteran Bill Elliott. Dale Earnhardt Jr. could not attend due to other obligations, so JR Motorsports got Elliott to test the car.
"Bill has obviously been around for a long time, has a lot of experience, a lot of good memories, and to just talk to him and hear what he has to say, it's like he hasn't missed a beat," Eliott said. "I feel like he's been out there racing all along, and I'm sure he could probably suit back up tomorrow and kick most of our asses tomorrow.
It's pretty cool to see him in the car. For him and Chase to get to share that moment of Chase's first Nationwide test and preparing to come down here to race as a father‑son is pretty special, especially the way things worked out, JR Motorsports being able to let them do that and to pair that all up."
Along with working with Bill Elliott, it marked Smith's first time working with his new young teammate Chase Elliott. JR Motorsports announced a couple weeks before Daytona testing that Elliott would drive the No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet in 2014.
"Chase is going to have to learn at the beginning of the year, there's going to be a lot of things that are different than the trucks he was in last year and he's going to have to learn as he goes," Smith spoke of the young driver. "but what we're going to have is that consistency of the same guy in that seat, so when we go and 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 thinks and what each driver says before it even happens, and it's going to be easier for us to say, hey, you know what, that's kind of what we need with our car and we didn't have a chance a try that, so that may be the direction we need to go for the race.
"From that standpoint I think it's going to be great. He's obviously very talented. There's no denying that. I think his track record speaks for itself there and the races that he's won and what he's done to this point in his career."
Smith added that he doesn't think Elliott's learning curve will be big and looks forward to helping the young driver.
The addition of Elliott brought forth a change in the organization as Greg Ives, who crew chiefed for Smith last year, will work with Elliott while Smith works with JR Motorsports Competition Director Ryan Pemberton.
"Ryan and myself have worked together before," Smith commented. "He's a veteran, he's been around. He knows the garage, knows the cars, knows a lot of these things, and he kind of watched not from afar last year but from a different position last year and got a different perspective. He was in all our meetings. He was inputting on changes that we were making, always a part of all that stuff. I kind of had that chemistry with him from years past and that relationship to where it made it easy for me to pair back up with him and go back to work like we never skipped a beat.
"And about Chase coming in as a younger guy, Greg having some experience now, it seemed like that was a good mesh and a good fit for those guys, and that was the ultimate determining factor into making the changes that we did."
Smith expects all the changes to fall in place and make JR Motorsports a strong team in 2014.
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