By John Crane
3 Minute Read
Heading into Championship Weekend, Ty Gibbs – and Joe Gibbs Racing, in particular – had their work cut out for them.
Of course, the work didn’t come much regarding a lack of talent or capability to win the title. The team in JGR and the driver in Gibbs certainly had the pedigree to win at Phoenix Raceway, and they inevitably did, ousting the trio of other contending playoff drivers en route to a win at the track and a title clinch in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
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Instead, the work cut out for JGR came from the team they were battling. After all, the three other Championship 4 drivers – Noah Gragson, Justin Allgaier and Josh Berry – called Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s co-owned JR Motorsports home. And while JGR might have prevailed over JRM when it was all said and done, the latter’s 2022 season could not be taken lightly. And who knows – even as drivers move up the league ladder, JRM’s breakout year could signify what JGR will have to contend with next season and beyond.
So, what exactly did JRM accomplish this season if they didn’t claim the title? Glad you asked. For starters, JRM led all 2022 teams in wins with 15, the fourth-most by an Xfinity Series team in a single season and the most since JGR won 16 in 2010, per Racing Insights. JRM’s 15 wins were additionally a team-high in a single season, lapping their nine wins during the 2014 campaign.
Spearheading JRM’s winning effort in 2022 was Noah Gragson, who found Victory Lane eight times. The 24-year-old acted as the ace and anchor for the team from start to finish, and a scorching start to the season certainly cemented this claim. According to Racing Insights, Gragson became the third driver to start the season with four consecutive top-three finishes. Collectively, Gragson led all drivers with eight wins, 21 top-five finishes and 16 stage wins. And just to add a cherry on top, Gragson’s four consecutive wins between Darlington Raceway (Sept. 3) and Texas Motor Speedway (Sept. 24) tied Sam Ard (1983) for most consecutive races won.
Now, the question is bound to arise. With Gragson’s transfer to the Cup Series as captain of the No. 42 Chevrolet under Petty-GMS starting in 2023, what will JRM do to offset the loss in production? If 2022 was any indicator, then JRM will remain in stable hands. When speaking of last season, Allgaier and Berry were tied for fourth in wins (three apiece). The pair combined for 27 top-five finishes (16 and 11, respectively) and individually ranked inside the top five in this category among all Xfinity Series drivers (Allgaier t-3rd and Berry t-5th).
Stage wins weren’t alien to the Allgaier-Berry duo, either, even when compared to Gragson’s total. Allgaier’s eight and Berry’s six stage wins in 2022 ranked third and fourth in the league, behind only Gragson and JGR’s Gibbs (10). And so, JRM’s success in winning stages only made it natural for the team to collectively break records in this category. JRM’s 33 stage wins were the most in a single season for a team, surpassing JGR’s 30 in 2019.
JRM’s Gragson-Allgaier-Berry trio undoubtedly put together strong seasons from start to finish, and while none of the three came away with the championship, all three put themselves in a position to fight for it. With their bids in the Championship 4, JRM added to their resume by being the only team to place three drivers in the Championship 4, doing so in 2022 and 2017.
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A successful 2022 season from JRM sets the bar high for 2023. Challenge accepted. With Gragson’s departure comes Brandon Jones’ entrance, who will transition from JGR to JRM and take over Gragson’s No. 9 Chevy in 2023. Then, there is second-year driver Sam Mayer, who, in his first full-time season with JRM in the No. 1, tallied 11 top-five finishes and two stage wins.
No matter how JGR looks in 2023, the team will still be reeling off a victorious 2022 season that saw them net their second championship in as many years. However, if JRM has anything to say about it, then the former will continue to have their work cut out for them.
Stats provided by Racing Insights.