Drivers to split Cup schedule in 51

Updated: January 8, 2013, 6:30 PM ET
By David Newton | ESPN.com

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Regan Smith and AJ Allmendinger will split the 2013 Sprint Cup schedule in the No. 51 at Phoenix Racing, general manager Steve Barkdoll said on Tuesday.

The Spartanburg, S.C.-based organization also hopes to put 2004 Cup champion Kurt Busch in a select number of Nationwide Series races, beginning with next month's opener at Daytona International Speedway.

Busch ran 29 Cup races and four Nationwide races for Phoenix Racing last season, winning the July Nationwide race at Daytona before replacing Smith in the No. 78 Cup car at Furniture Row Racing late in the year.

Smith, who has a fulltime ride in the Nationwide Series with JR Motorsports, will open the Cup season for Phoenix in the Daytona 500. He also will compete in the July Daytona race, both Talladega races and possibly four to six more events.

Allmendinger, who drove four races for Phoenix Racing last season after being released from Penske Racing following a suspension for violating NASCAR's substance abuse policy, will run the rest of the schedule beginning with the second race at Phoenix.

Barkdoll said the plan is to drive the full season between the drivers, with the understanding Allmendinger would become the fulltime driver after Daytona if a sponsor stepped forward for the entire season.

"Regan really wants to focus on his deal at JR Motorsports," Barkdoll said.

Phoenix Racing already has Cup sponsorship lined up for Daytona and Las Vegas, which Barkdoll said is more activity than the organization had all of last season with Busch as the primary driver.

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter