Smith to drive No. 78 for Hendrick

DENVER -- Regan Smith, last year's top rookie in the Sprint Cup Series, will drive for Furniture Row Racing in 2009.

Smith will drive the No. 78 Chevrolet beginning with the season-opening Daytona 500. The team announced late last year it will only run a partial schedule in 2009 because of the economic crisis, and currently has just 12 races planned.

"Furniture Row Racing is thrilled to obtain the driving services of Regan, who is one of the bright young talents in NASCAR," team president and general manager Joe Garone said Wednesday. "His competitiveness and enthusiasm on the track speak for itself. In addition, he is a good fit for not only our sponsor but any partners looking for strong corporate representation in the Sprint Cup Series."

The 25-year-old Smith drove for Dale Earnhardt Inc. last season and was the first Cup rookie in NASCAR history to finish every race he started. He lost a controversial race at Talladega Superspeedway in October when his last-lap pass of Tony Stewart was ruled illegal by NASCAR.

Smith then lost his ride when DEI merged with Chip Ganassi Racing in November, and his unsponsored team ceased to exist.

"I look forward to continuing my career in the No. 78 Furniture Row Chevy," Smith said. "Though it's a single-car team that battles heavy odds against the mega multicar operations, the organization has always been highly respected in the garage for its use of some of the best equipment as well as an undying commitment to growing a winning team.

"That's all a driver can ask for and I can't wait to get to Daytona and compete in another superspeedway race."