After a successful season with both their full-time drivers qualifying for the inaugural XFINITY Series, JR Motorsports made the decision to expand to four full-time entries for the 2017 season.
While some teams haven’t had the best success with all four cars at once in a NASCAR division, Justin Allgaier believes things will be different for JRM this year.
“We have four teams that are capable of winning races every week, and I feel all four teams are going to work really well together, and if you tell me that all four of us make the playoffs, it wouldn’t surprise me,” he said.
The confidence for Allgaier comes from the drivers the team will have this upcoming season.
“From my standpoint, I’m excited to get Michael (Annett) back as a teammate, excited to get William (Byron) as a teammate, and as I said, I’m happy to have Elliott (Sadler) as an existing teammate,” he said. “We jelled together near the end of last year really well, and the dynamic of our team could do that again.”
Last year, Sadler finished second in the series standings after scoring three wins and 29 top-10s in 33 races with JR Motorsports, to go along with Allgaier’s 27 top-10s en route to finishing third in the standings. The team is now set to add Michael Annett, who posted 34 top-10s from 2009 to 2013 in XFINITY before moving up to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. The last member of the squad could easily be this year’s Rookie of the Year as William Byron joins the team, after scoring seven Camping World Truck Series victories last year for Kyle Busch Motorsports.
While it marks Allgaier’s first time working with Byron, he has previous experience with Annett as the pair were teammates at HScott Motorsports.
“Me and Michael worked great together at HScott,” Allgaier said. “We’ve kind of ran our NASCAR careers together. We’ve traveled up the ranks and back to the XFINITY Series on a similar schedule. We get along pretty well, have the same thought processes, and been through the same trials on the Cup side.”
Going on the theory the more knowledge you have is better, Allgaier feels the combination of drivers and crew chiefs they have in place will produce results.
“If you tie all those together, then you have a great base. But if you add four drivers that are hungry to go out there and win races and a championship, that’s going to be awesome,” he said.
He also noted it’s expansion from three cars to four, as the team has run a third car full-time the past couple of years. Dubbed the All-Star car, the No. 88 was used for Cup Series regulars Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne and last year Chase Elliott, to split time with young up-and-coming drivers. While both Sadler and Allgaier ran well last year, so did the No. 88 car with the team scoring a pair of victories. There were also a couple of events where they entered four cars and managed to place all four in the top-10 at the end.
“I think Dale and Kelley Earnhardt-Miller, and Mr. Hendrick and everyone involved – everybody is on board to help it grow,” Allgaier said. “If we can grow at the rate we did last year, I think the sky is the limit. I really think between Chevrolet, our resources, and the amount of effort put into it – I know everyone comes in and says they’re excited, but I’m really happy about the progress that JR Motorsports has made in the off-season and really excited about having four cars full-time and a fifth car part-time.”
Starting off the season with a good run at Daytona will certainly keep positive thoughts afloat, and there’s no reason to believe they can’t make it happen. JR Motorsports has shown speed on the restrictor plate tracks before, including Sadler winning at Talladega Superspeedway last April. Allgaier has also run well on the plate tracks, posting a second-place finish last summer at Daytona.
“The optimism side of me says we finished second, so we had a good day. But the pessimistic side of me says we finished second, but we were so close to winning the race,” he said. “I think, for all of us, Daytona and Talladega are so much fun. I think the enhancements to the rules this year will make the races more interesting and the fact that now we will not only have a battle to the last lap but to three different parts of the race to get to the front spot.
“The other part is the plate tracks have been good for JR Motorsports as a whole. They’ve been good for Dale Jr. We’ve got some things that as we run, I feel confident in our restrictor plate program. I have a great spotter in TJ Majors. He does Dale’s stuff on Sundays – he does it for me in the XFINITY Series races. I feel we have all the pieces to the puzzle.”
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