“The misconception was, ‘You have something and that’s why you’re leaving JRM,’”Smith said. “No, I got told I didn’t have a position there in the coming season.”
Smith, who has spent the last three years racing the No. 7 Chevrolet for the team, is currently without any ride for 2016. The 32-year-old driver observes that free agency has become harsher in the three years since he left Furniture Row Racing in the Sprint Cup Series after 2012.
“Now I’m paying more attention to the free agency thing, I can say with 100 percent certainty I’ve never seen it this difficult to get things done and solidified,” Smith said.
There’s only two race weekends left in 2015 and many rides have already been filled with drivers who have sponsors backing them. Allgaier brought Brandt and Sadler has OneMain Financial.
Smith lamented that many sponsors want 18-year-old drivers with a lot of promise and not a veteran driver like him who is in his prime.
“A lot of teams are wanting to sign the next 18 year old, but not all 18 year olds are going to be Kyle Larson,” Smith told USA Today. “A lot of times guys don’t get to their best levels until they’re experienced and know how to help a team get much better. That’s kind of where I’m at right now.”
Smith said it took him years to figure out how to best tell his team what his car needed to get better. Reaching that point has helped Smith, who won the 2011 Southern 500 and five Xfinity races in the last three years, perform “at a level right now driver-wise that I’ve never been at.”
Confidence in Smith’s ability is what gave him the opportunity to be a substitute driver in the Sprint Cup Series the last two years. He stepped in for Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International last year and in 2015 replaced Kurt Busch in the first three races of the season and Larson in the spring race at Martinsville Speedway.