Smith set to take over Martin and Almirola's '01' ride

Updated: August 29, 2007, 9:55 PM ET
By David Newton | ESPN.com

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Dale Earnhardt Inc. has reached a verbal agreement with Regan Smith to drive the No. 01 in the Nextel Cup series next season, a NASCAR source told ESPN.com on Wednesday.

Smith will fill the car driven this season by Mark Martin and Aric Almirola, who will split the 2008 season in the No. 8 currently being driven by Dale Earnhardt Jr.

He will have a one-year deal with an option for a second year.

An official announcement of the entire DEI lineup with sponsor plans is expected next weekend at Richmond International Raceway. Smith, splitting time with Martin, drove the No. 01 in six Cup races this season for Ginn Racing before its merger with DEI. His best start was 10th at Watkins Glenn and best finish was 24th at Talladega.

He was replaced by Almirola after the merger.

Smith has been competing in the Busch Series since 2002. In 102 starts he has three top fives, all this season, and five top 10s with one pole. He was 20th in the Busch standings last season and is 23rd this year.

Martin, most of his crew and the U.S. Army sponsor currently on the No. 01 will move to the 8 with Almirola. Max Siegel, the president of global operations at DEI, said last weekend that Martin would drive 24-26 races and that he has sponsor deals for all four of the DEI cars.

Martin Truex Jr. drives the No. 1 and Paul Menard drives the No. 15.

David Newton is a senior NASCAR writer for ESPN.com.

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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