LEBANON, TENNESSEE – JUNE 25: Josh Berry, driver of the #8 Tire Pros Chevrolet, drives during qualifying for the NASCAR Xfinity Series Tennessee Lottery 250 at Nashville Superspeedway on June 25, 2022 in Lebanon, Tennessee. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images) | Getty Images
Justin Allgaier’s victory—in dominating fashion—on Saturday at Nashville Superspeedway was a record-breaker for JR Motorsports.
Not only has the team won 40% of the races in 2022, but it earned its sixth victory of the season and fifth in seven races. The win also came one event earlier than the previous record start during the 2014 season.
In that record-setting and organization-shaping season, JRM drivers won six of the first 16 races. Regan Smith got it started by winning at Daytona in the season opener, and Chase Elliott won at both Texas and Darlington in April (the sixth and seventh races of the year).
Kevin Harvick, racing a part-time schedule for JRM, triumphed at Richmond to make it three straight and four overall. Harvick would go on to win at Kentucky in June, while Kasey Kahne drove to victory at Daytona in July to give the team six victories in 16 races.
The 2022 squad went one better overall, with Noah Gragson winning at Phoenix in March (the fourth race of the year) before starting another three-in-a-row streak at Talladega in April. Josh Berry won at Dover and Justin Allgaier took the top spot at Darlington to tie the 2014 team for most consecutive victories as an organization.
With four victories in hand, the 2022 group scored again at Charlotte in May with Berry—after a titanic struggle with Allgaier.
Allgaier’s victory at Nashville in the 15th race of the season gives the 2022 edition of JRM the nod in terms of most successful starts to a season. The math says the 2022 squad averages a victory every 2.5 races, while the 2014 lineup won every 2.67 races.
Both the 2014 and 2022 teams as a whole earned over 35 top-10s each to start the year, with 2014 scoring 37 and 2022 recording 39 over the span, but the 2022 group has posted an astounding 31 top-five results, compared to just 22 for the 2014 squad. There is a slight difference in the number of starts, to be fair.
Mike Bumgarner, crew chief for Berry and the No.8 team, was part of the 2014 season as a crew chief, and he said the two groups are very similar.
“The driver lineup is a big part of it,” he said. “You have four guys that are pushing each other to the limit. It was the same way back in 2014; all four cars are racing each other a lot. This year, you see the 1 or the 7 or the 8 or the 9, always one of our guys. In 2014, it was the 5, the 7, the 9 and the 88, same thing. They were racing each other for race wins. We fed off that and it made each of the teams better every week.”
The torrid start also sees the 2022 team with a leg up on matching or exceeding the 2014 version’s record nine victories for a season.
Elliott won at Chicago in 2014 for the seventh triumph, and Harvick took the checkered at both Atlanta and Chicago to run the total to nine. Elliott clinched the series title—JRM’s first of three—with a race to go.
Gragson, Berry and Allgaier each have two victories this season, and Sam Mayer has challenged for his own first NXS triumph nearly every week. The now-19-year-old Wisconsin driver, heading to his home state this weekend at Road America, has eight top-five and nine top-10 finishes in 15 starts. Only one driver has more top fives this season than Mayer, and that’s his teammate Gragson in the No. 9. Gragson (nine top-five and 10 top-10s) and Allgaier (seven top-five and 10 top-10s) are just slightly ahead of the young driver overall. Berry has two victories, six top-five and eight top-10 finishes in his 15 starts.
The similarities between the seasons extends to the shop as well, Bumgarner said.
“The morale inside the shop is very similar to what it was back in 2014, for all the cars,” he said. “It’s not so much the wins; it’s the top fives. We try to cheer each other on, everybody wants every team to get a top-five finish. You have four cars here that have seven or eight top fives apiece, so we’re looking at even better numbers than we had in 2014. The performance side of it, seeing all four cars run the way they are, gets everyone even more motivated.”
With six victories in less than half the season, the 2022 squad has already tied the title-winning 2017 JRM contingent in that regard, and the 2018 JRM team had seven victories overall.
With a two-week break between Portland and Nashville, the current-year teams were able to reset and replenish for the stretch of 12 races in 13 weeks leading to the start of the NXS Playoffs. That’s been beneficial, according to Bumgarner.
“It’s good for everybody,” he said. “Any time you can take some time and get caught up on parts, get ready for the summer swing…it’s good for the company. We have multiple races coming up on road courses and speedways, and those are always kind of one-offs. If you get some extra time to get those cars prepared, it’s always a bonus.”
— JR Motorsports —