JR Motorsports Eschews Complacency, Shakes up Its Xfinity Series Assignments

Placing three cars in the Xfinity Series Championship 4 didn’t net Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s NASCAR team a title this month, and JR Motorsports is responding by shaking up its driver/crew chief combinations for 2023.

Given the outstanding performance of JRM over the years, it’s anything but a panic move. Rather, it brings fresh energy across the board entering the new season, and there’s a sound method to the madness.

Change was inevitable at JR Motorsports this offseason

The four full-time JR Motorsports cars from the 2022 NASCAR Xfinity Series season. | Getty Images
The four full-time JR Motorsports cars from the 2022 NASCAR Xfinity Series season. | Getty Images

Keeping a successful Xfinity Series team together for any length of time is close to impossible. Cup Series teams and Xfinity rivals are always looking for prospects, and the top of the points list tends to be a good place to start.

Petty GMS snapped up driver Noah Gragson for 2023 midway through the recent season, then followed up in October by getting a commitment from Luke Lambert, his first-year crew chief at JR Motorsports. Xfinity teams aren’t above raiding other organizations for talent, either, and Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s JRM went that route by recruiting driver Brandon Jones from the Joe Gibbs Racing roster.

JR Motorsports went into the offseason with one more crew chief vacancy to fill because of the decision to take Mike Bumgarner off Josh Berry’s car to move him up to the organization’s chief of competition. With that as the backdrop, Earnhardt and Bumgarner shared news on Thursday about how the pieces will fit together in 2023.

All four JR Motorsports Chevys will have new crew chiefs in 2023

Brandon Jones, coming off a frustrating end to his tenure at Joe Gibbs Racing, is the new guy in the JR Motorsports drivers’ room, and his No. 9 Chevy will benefit from the experience of Jason Burdett, the organization’s winningest crew chief.

Burdett came to JR Motorsports in 2015 as Regan Smith’s crew chief, posting two wins. He spent 2016-22 on Justin Allgaier’s car, where they collaborated on 16 more victories.

Taylor Moyer is the other holdover crew chief. Moyer arrived at JRM in 2019, tasked with running the “extra” car wheeled by nine drivers. He was rising prospect Sam Mayer’s crew chief the past two seasons and now moves over to Josh Berry’s No. 8 Chevy to replace Mike Bumgarner.

The totally new combinations are Mardy Lindley handling Sam Mayer’s No. 1 Chevy and Jim Pohlman running Allgaier’s No. 7 team.

Lindley was a crew chief in the truck series with Kyle Busch Motorsports for the last two years, and the pairing with Mayer is a natural fit. They teamed up for titles in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series in 2019 and ARCA Menards Series in 2020.

Pohlman is a pit crew veteran who most recently worked for Richard Childress Racing, and he also has a history with his driver. He was a crew member when Allgaier captured the ARCA Menards Series crown in 2018.

So, while shaking up the entire lineup seems drastic, reuniting figures who’ve worked together stands a good chance of immediate results and continuing JRM’s success.

Mike Bumgarner: ‘How can we be better?’

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With so many bodies changing places, Mike Bumgarner may have to think twice about where to find who he’s looking for when he walks through the JR Motorsports shop the next few weeks.

It’s a small price to pay at an organization that placed all four of its full-time cars in the top seven in Xfinity Series points this year. Noah Gragson, Josh Berry, and Justin Allgaier all competed in the Championship 4.

“As successful as 2022 was for JR Motorsports, we’re always asking ourselves, ‘How can we be better?'” Bumgarner, the director of competition, said in the team’s announcement. “While we performed at a very high level this season, a tweak here or there can help push you even further.”

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