It’s said that the sequel always has a hard time living up to the original. JR Motorsports is about to test that theory, albeit with one change.
For the 2017 season, JR Motorsports was the class of the NASCAR Xfinity Series placing all four of its drivers – Elliott Sadler, Justin Allgaier, William Byron and Michael Annett – in the playoffs. Sadler, Allgaier and Byron reached the Championship 4 with Byron besting Sadler for the championship.
A fourth runner-up finish in the Xfinity Series standings was particularly “hard to swallow” for Sadler.
“Homestead hurt,” Sadler said at last month’s NASCAR Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series Awards. “It’ll be good … that we can get refreshed and re-energized and start from scratch as we head into Daytona,”
Allgaier finished third in the standings for the second straight year. The 31-year-old Illinois native scored his first series wins since 2012 with victories at Phoenix and Chicago.
RELATED: Recap Allgaier’s 2017 season
“I was very pleased with where JR Motorsports was at in 2017,” Allgaier said. “Very rarely do you put all the pieces of the puzzle into place that put you in a situation to do what we did. To have 75 percent of the field for the Championship 4 as JR Motorsports competitors is crazy.”
Now, the Dale Earnhardt Jr.-co-owned organization looks to replicate or better that feat, although the team will have a driver change with Byron moving up to Hendrick Motorsports and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Tyler Reddick comes into the fold to fill the seat vacated by the 2017 Xfinity Series champ. Sadler, Allgaier and Annett all return for 2018.
Reddick’s Xfinity experience in 2017 driving the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet in a part-time capacity – he won at Kentucky in September and notched poles in his final two starts – should help minimize any potential learning curve.
“I think Tyler will incorporate very seamlessly,” Allgaier said. “Tyler’s a great guy but he’s also a great competitor. To win this year at Kentucky for him and to see the success he had with the Chip Ganassi Racing team, I think he’s a great addition. He fits in really well with all of our guys that are there. … He’s somebody I can lean on because we have a lot of the same background and a lot of the same experiences and I think it’s going to be fun.”
Sadler echoed Allgaier’s thoughts, but acknowledged that given his UNC basketball fandom, Reddick’s last name made him think of former Duke basketball standout and current NBA player J.J. Redick.
“He definitely seems to have a good attitude and wants to do it, so I honestly think Tyler’s going to fit in just fine,” Sadler said. “I’ve already talked to him and said, ‘Look, man. If I call you J.J., I’m sorry.’ He’s like, ‘What?’ I’m like, ‘J.J. Redick. When I hear the name Reddick, that’s all I can think about it is J.J. Redick. So look, if we’re in the heat of battle or conversation talking about a race and I say J.J., it’s not a … I’m not cussing you. I’m just thinking, that’s being a Carolina fan. That’s what I think of when I hear Reddick.’ “