Development Journalists

Custer and JR Motorsports Set for Martinsville

@colecuster00 will make his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start of 2015 this weekend at Martinsville Speedway, driving the No.00 Haas Automation Chevy Silverado for JR Motorsports.

The seventeen year-old Ladera Ranch, California native carries a strong truck series resume heading into the season. Last year he made history by becoming the youngest NASCAR national touring series winner at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in September. He also became the youngest pole winner at Gateway Motorsports Park last June.

Custer will compete in ten Camping World Truck Series events throughout this season driving for JR Motorsports. This weekend’s race will mark the first attempt at truck series competition for JRM, who won last year’s XFINITY Series Championship with @chaseelliott.

A much-anticipated weekend is finally here for Custer and the No. 00 team.

“After a long off season, I’m more than ready to get to the racetrack,” he said. “It’s exciting to be coming back at a track like Martinsville with Haas Automation and JR Motorsports. Our goal is to pick up where we left off last year. Martinsville is a place where we have shown speed before and I feel like we can run fast again this weekend.”

In two Martinsville races last year, Custer failed to finish in the top-10, earning a best finish of 12th. While the driver was fast on the speed chart, he was unable to avoid trouble at a track known for the bump-and-run.

“It’s still a learning experience for me. Managing the traffic there will be a challenge. That’s something I’ll be focused on,” Custer said.

The half-mile “Paper Clip” will prove difficult for many drivers this weekend. Custer and the newly formed No. 00 team must complete all the laps and avoid trouble if they plan to gain experience for weeks to come.

Jason Karlavige is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist



Alex Bowman Strives For A Victory

By Jason Karlavige – @AlexBRacing (Alex Bowman) is set to make his first NASCAR Nationwide Series appearance this week for @JRMotorsports at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The 21 year old from Tucson, Arizona will pilot the No. 5 Dirty Mo Radio Chevrolet.

He currently races full-time in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series for BK Racing. In 30 starts this season, Bowman sits 35th in points, with one top-15 finish in the Coke Zero 400. His average finish is 32nd.

So why does a Nationwide Series race mean so much for Bowman? He will get the chance to showcase his talent with a team that has been competitively racing for the 2014 series championship.

The young driver has performed exceptionally well during his first full Nationwide season, driving for RAB racing. As a rookie, he finished 11th in points, with two top fives and six top 10s. In both races at Texas Motor Speedway last year, he impressed many of the veteran drivers. Bowman qualifed on the pole beating the likes of @DaleJR @KyleBusch, @keselowski, @dennyhamlin, @mattkenseth and @KevinHarvick.

The JR Motorsports owner and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Most Popular Driver has a keen eye for up-and-coming talent. He is not afraid to give young drivers a chance to prove they can compete with the best of the best.

Bowman understands that he has high expectations heading into this weekend’s race.

“I’m excited, I’m here to win and that’s what we plan to do.”

Nobody will discourage that kind of confidence. The No. 5 JRM machine has five wins already this season, four with Harvick and one with @kaseykahne.

With no certain plans heading into the 2015 season, the young driver is eager to race for a win this weekend. A strong run could open the eyes of team owners in the garage, and place the name Alex Bowman on their radar heading into next year.

Jason Karlavige is a Popular Speed Development Journalist


Development Journalists

Harvick Helping to Seal Championship Deal for JRM

By Jason Schultz – Over the past few years, the NASCAR Nationwide Series has been dominated by @Team_Penske and @JoeGibbsRacing. Combined, they have won five of the last six owner’s championships. The 2014 season is proving to be a different story as @JRMotorsports is challenging for this title. They are currently sitting 26 points behind second-place Joe Gibbs Racing.

With JRM’s crop of talented athletes like @KevinHarvick, there is a new team atop the series driver standings.

The race team has been to Victory Lane a series leading eight times with three wins coming from Harvick. He and the No. 5 Bad Boy Buggies Chevrolet proved their dominance last weekend by leading 159 of the 195 laps.

His two previous victories have featured similar performances. In Richmond, he led 202 laps in route to the checkered flag. While in Kentucky, he only led for 14 circuits but ran up front throughout the night.

With the addition of this veteran driver, his success has helped the team raise their competition level. Following last weekend’s victory, team co-owner @DaleJr said, “Its rare where you find a driver who makes a huge impact on the entire company.”

As far as the team’s presence this season, such as rookie @ChaseElliott winning three times and leading the point standings, that too is a credit to Harvick. “Without Kevin I don’t think we make the impact we have made this year.”

The years of experience Harvick has under his belt also contributed to improving both their equipment and performance. “He’s brought a lot to our team…We’ve said it every time we have had the opportunity to talk about how much he has brought to the team as far as performance and speed,” Earnhardt Jr. noted.

With the series heading to Richmond International Raceway for the second time this season, it would not come as a surprise if this team has another stellar performance. Prior to coming to JRM, “The Closer” went to Victory Lane seven times at the speedway. A season sweep could increase that number up to nine. And Chase Elliott might not be too far behind him either.

Jason Schultz is a Popular Speed Development Journalist


Development Journalists

JR Motorsports Seeks Success in Atlanta

By Jason Schultz – It has been the year of @JRMotorsports in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Through 23 races, the team has been to Victory Lane a series leading seven times. They also hold the top two positions in drivers standings with @ChaseElliott and @ReganSmith. The team is currently excelling on all levels which is a trend they expect to keep up heading to Atlanta Motor Speedway.

The Hampton, Georgia venue suits the team’s strengths perfectly. Three of their seven victories have come at 1.5-mile tracks. Elliott leads the charge as he won in both Texas and Chicago while @KevinHarvick was victorious in Kentucky. Harvick’s victory will provide an advantage as Atlanta shares track characteristics with Kentucky, both featuring old surfaces.

Along with Elliott wanting to perform well in front of his hometown crowd and Smith hoping to stay close in the standings, expectations are high this weekend. The Nationwide Series career stats for Harvick are stellar and include seven top-five finishes in the last seven races. He has also visited Victory Lane twice, in 2009 and during last year’s Great Clips 300. The No. 5 Bad Boy Buggies Chevrolet team will surely be a prime contender on Saturday night.

Despite not having the same numbers as his teammates, Smith has quietly run well on the “cookie-cutter” tracks this season with three top-ten finishes. In Atlanta, last August, he came home ninth. Another consistent night looks to be ahead as the team prepares for a title run. The most mile and a half success in 2014 has come from the No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet team. Elliott has scored four top-ten finishes including two wins. With some added pressure from the hometown crowd this weekend, another great performance is likely.

JRM and success have gone hand -in-hand throughout the season. The team has blown their previous statistics out the window and its only August. In the past, their drivers have been in the championship mix. However, they have never before been this close to potentially grabbing the championship trophy in November. Their dominance will be on display this weekend as three incredible performances are ahead with one of these drivers claiming victory.

Jason Schultz is a Popular Speed Development Journalist



JR Motorsports Short Tracker Josh Berry Set for NNS Debut at Iowa

By Matt Weaver — The upcoming Nationwide Series standalone event at Iowa Speedway on Saturday night is just one of 33 races for Chase Elliott, Regan Smith and the weekly competitors of NASCAR’s second tier tour but it’s the opportunity of a lifetime for JR Motorsports development driver Josh Berry.

The 23-year-old short track driver from Central Tennessee has driven Late Model Stocks for JR Motorsports since 2010 but has been tabbed to make his NNS debut on Saturday in the No. 5 entry typically driven by Kevin Harvick.

Berry has an interesting background to say the least.

He first met Earnhardt in an online racing simulator in 2007 while racing Legend Cars back home in Tennessee. The two quickly established a fast friendship that continued into iRacing over the next three seasons.

That friendship ultimately led to Earnhardt looking into Berry’s Legend results at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville and offering him an opportunity in the JRM Late Model Stock at Motor Mile Speedway in Virginia.

“I’ve always said that iRacing was the bridge of friendship between Dale and me,” Berry told Popular Speed on Wednesday. “We developed a friendship in some of the higher divisions online and we were talking about my career one day.

“He looked into my Legends stuff on the quarter-mile at Nashville and told me that he was looking to be more involved with the Late Model program. We met up and tested at Motor Mile and one race led to two and eventually into four seasons.”

It’s been a successful run for JRM and Berry. He earned the operation’s first track championship at Motor Mile in 2012 and is the current championship leader at the historic Hickory Motor Speedway in North Carolina. He has also scored victories at Greenville Pickens and Southern National Motor Speedway.

Berry said that a Nationwide Series start was never proposed to him until late last season and that he never asked, not wanting to seem ungrateful for the opportunities that he had been provided with Earnhardt.

“Maybe it was to my fault but I never asked for a Nationwide ride because I didn’t want to rock the boat,” Berry said. “I have a full-time Late Model deal where I wasn’t bringing any money and was more than satisfied about it.

“But they came to me last fall and said that they had an opening for the race at Richmond but NASCAR wouldn’t approve me. So we took a step back and readdressed our plans and made a point to get me in car this season.”

Berry made his NASCAR K&N Pro Series East debut this season with a pair of starts at Greenville and Richmond, earning his Nationwide Series license in the process. The deal was inked last month for Berry to make his debut at Iowa and the driver has set humble goals for Saturday night.

“Realistically, if we can run top-15 and bring the car home in one piece, I feel like we would have had a successful go,” Berry said. “I want the team to leave the track with a good feeling and tell me that they would want to do it again. And if we can somehow get a top-10, that would be a major success.”

To prepare for the race, Berry has spent time at the track, seeking advice from JR Motorsports affiliated drivers like Harvick and Elliott while also logging hours in the video room, watching in-car footage from the Iowa race in May with Smith, the third-place finisher behind Sam Hornish and Ryan Blaney.

“I feel like I am prepared as I can be,” Berry said. “Regan has been a huge help. Harvick’s feedback has been mind-blowing. It’s incredible how thorough he is and it’s totally clear to me why he is one of the best in the business. I know what I need to do now and it’s just a matter of getting it done.”

Lastly, Berry is the personification of the American dream in North American motorsports. He doesn’t come from a wealthy family and is a pure grassroots racer with lofty dreams of going NASCAR racing. It is one of the reasons he believes Earnhardt gave him the opportunity of a lifetime in the first place.

“He’s doing driver development completely different than how everyone else is,” Berry said. “I’m just a common racer. I work on my own cars and have come up the hard way. It’s your only option in the Late Model world. I think it’s just cool that he would reward a guy like that.

“He just has a different outlook on racing than most.”

The U.S. Cellular 250 from Iowa Speedway will start at 8 p.m. with ESPN providing the television coverage of the event.