There was no over-the-top panic when Justin Allgaier’s No. 7 Chevrolet wouldn’t fire off from the pit lane before last weekend’s NASCAR Xfinity Series event at Darlington Raceway. A moderate scramble ensued in the problem-solving process, but that controlled form of chaos paid a precious reward.
In a fortunate stroke, Allgaier’s powerless car was a short push to the pit stall belonging to teammate Josh Berry’s No. 8 JR Motorsports group, which was prepared to lend a hand and make the necessary fix. After a quickly managed battery swap, Allgaier rejoined the field before the green flag waved, dropping to the rear for the start. Just 200 miles later, Allgaier was talking to his crew on the cool-down lap, thanking them for keeping him calm as he carved up through the pack for his first victory of the season.
That win marked the third in a row for JR Motorsports, which is rounding into powerful midseason form in a stacked Xfinity Series field. While Allgaier’s Darlington tally mark came with a dose of good fortune at the start, it’s been the overall performance that’s added a level of reassurance whenever adversity crops up.
“I mean, I think when something like that happens before you’ve even started the race, and you feel like it’s fixed, at that point you just kind of reset and say OK, we’ve got time to work our way back to the front,” said No. 7 crew chief Jason Burdett. “And as long as we stay patient and don’t make big mistakes, we’re going to be OK. And you know, it worked out. … So it was just, it was a solid day for our team all around. And as an organization, I mean, I think we obviously have really good cars right now.”
The scoring pylon at Darlington reflected those facts, with three JR Motorsports cars among the top five finishers. Behind Allgaier were runner-up Noah Gragson and fifth-place Sam Mayer, who rallied after a last-gasp pit stop. Berry was also in that top-five mix until a late-race restart penalty knocked him back.
Impressive as that was, JRM’s day at Darlington came on the heels of its Dover Motor Speedway dominance the previous week, when all four of the organization’s entries posted top-five outcomes behind a victorious Berry. Allgaier — the team’s longest-tenured driver, now in his seventh season with JR Motorsports – has seen peaks in JRM’s performance before. But this recent spike?
“It’s all of and then some better than what it’s ever been,” Allgaier said. “You know, there’s been times in my time at JR Motorsports where we’ve been ultra-competitive, but not like we are today, right? I feel like our team has done a really good job, the cohesiveness of all of us. You know, the crazy part is as drivers we’re so different, and even setups that we bring to the race track are so different.”
At one end of the JRM chemistry spectrum are veterans Allgaier, a 35-year-old Midwesterner who stands as the team’s senior statesman, and the 31-year-old Berry, a longtime Late Model campaigner making the most of his shot at the NASCAR national series ranks. The other end of that close-knit driver collective has two young prospects – Gragson, who at 23 years old and a two-time winner already this season seems primed to make a Cup Series leap; and Mayer, the 18-year-old rookie who is starting to show polish in his first full Xfinity season.
Different ages and different driving approaches have also meant a variety of car setups, as Allgaier alluded to, which JRM’s teams have been willing to share and fine-tune to improve company-wide performance. Many core members of the team have stayed intact to keep that chemistry tight, but even its relative newcomers – veteran crew chief Luke Lambert included — have fit in seamlessly with the Dale Earnhardt Jr.-owned operation.
“You know, I feel like I’ve had some good opportunities through the years, and I feel like in a lot of ways, this is one of the best opportunities I’ve had, as far as all the pieces are right — with the team and the driver and the timing of it is really good,” says Lambert, who took over Gragson’s No. 9 team this year and has been a crew chief at the national-series level since 2011. “So we’ve got a good chemistry and who knows where it can lead to, but just really trying to make the most of the moment, and we’re in the moment every time we get to go on the race track, and that’s what we’re putting our effort on.”
The Xfinity Series pumps the brakes for a weekend off this week before returning May 21 at Texas Motor Speedway (1:30 p.m. ET, FS1, PRN, SiriusXM). It’s allowed an extra week for the organization’s place in the Xfinity standings to simmer, with all four drivers ranked among the top seven – Gragson second, Allgaier fourth, Berry fifth and Mayer seventh.
“This doesn’t happen because of one person or even one team,” Allgaier said. “You know, this is a huge integral part of everybody that works at JR Motorsports. … I’ve always been proud of being at JR Motorsports, but this year, seeing kind of everything come to fruition of the hard work and effort. You know, that’s what you look for, right?
“I mean, everybody works hard. There’s not a soul in that garage in there that doesn’t put their blood, sweat and tears into these race cars, week in and week out. I don’t care if you run 38th every week or if you win every week, you still put the time and energy into it. And so when you have these moments, you have to enjoy them and make the most of them.”