California native Zane Smith, a member of the NASCAR Next Class of 2018, will drive eight NASCAR Xfinity Series races for JR Motorsports in 2019, the team announced Tuesday. Smith will take the wheel of the organization’s No. 9 Chevrolet in his series debut in March at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The 19-year-old Smith is the first driver to be named to the lineup of JRM’s No. 9 team, which is coming off its second consecutive Xfinity Series title — William Byron won the 2017 championship in the car, with Tyler Reddick following in 2018.
JRM will run a full-time schedule with the No. 9 next season with a number of drivers at the helm, according to a press release. Additional drivers, crew chief and sponsorship news will be announced at a later date, according to the team.
“Zane is going to be an important part of the lineup for the No. 9 team next season,” said Dale Earnhardt Jr., owner of JRM. “It’s a great opportunity for him. The team is going to take on a different feel with a handful of drivers taking turns throughout the year, but the goal remains the same — to help these drivers gain experience and continue to advance their careers. We started the Xfinity program with that mindset and it’s something we’re proud to continue.”
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Smith will join a JR Motorsports roster going through a bit of a makeover. Justin Allgaier (No. 7) and Michael Annett (No. 5) both return, but Reddick is off to Richard Childress Racing and Elliott Sadler has retired. Noah Gragson will start his first year in the No. 1 in 2019. The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas will partner with JR Motorsports for Smith’s debut.
“I’m super pumped to be a part of JR motorsports with the No. 9 team for eight races,” Smith said. “I’m counting down the days until Las Vegas, which will be my debut in the Xfinity series. I can’t thank The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas enough for making this happen, along with all of my other partners who have gotten me this far. Having Dale and Kelley (Earnhardt Miller) as bosses and to lean on is going to be awesome. They are huge icons of the sport. It is unreal to be a part of their team, so I’m just going to try and take it all in.”
In addition to Las Vegas, Smith will race at the following tracks: Bristol Motor Speedway (April 6), Richmond Raceway (April 12 and Sept. 20), Dover International Speedway (May 4 and Oct. 5) and Iowa Speedway (June 16 and July 27).
Smith drove full time in the ARCA Racing Series in 2018, finishing in second place in the final standings. He won four times and had 12 top-five finishes in 20 races. Smith also finished fifth in his only NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series start at Gateway Motorsports Park.
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“JR Motorsports has a strong history of helping groom young talent and we’re looking forward to giving Zane that platform for success,” said Kelley Earnhardt Miller, general manager of JRM. “We feel Zane has much to offer both on and off the track. We’re going to have him in the car for these eight races, but also have him gain additional experience by traveling with the team for the season.”