Saturday afternoon, JR Motorsports driver Justin Allgaier raced to Victory Lane at Darlington Raceway. This win marked his second of the season and capped off a day in which the majority of the team performed well, simultaneously creating questions about whether the team will move to the Cup Series. Now Dale Earnhardt Jr. has provided an answer.
The 15-time Most Popular Driver spoke to Adam Stern of the Sports Business Journal prior to Saturday’s race. He explained that JRM is still having internal discussions about whether to compete in the Cup Series in the future. “We’re motivated to learn whether this is the time to do it or not. I think it’s probably now or never,” Earnhardt told Stern on Friday.
“We’re having a lot of great conversations with people in the industry about whether this would work for us,” Earnhardt added. “We’ve got a lot of confidence in our ability to run a race team. …The hurdle is really whether you can make the financial numbers work and acquire the charter.”
JRM drivers have continued to perform in the Xfinity Series
The Xfinity Series season is nine races deep, and JRM drivers have accounted for three trips to Victory Lane. Allgaier won at Atlanta and then at Darlington. Josh Berry won at Martinsville in April. Michael Annett, another JRM driver has posted four top-10 finishes in 2021. This stat line includes a seventh-place run on Saturday.
Noah Gragson, the fourth member of the JRM Xfinity stable, has not reached Victory Lane in 2021 after winning two races in 2020 and posting 17 top-five finishes. However, Gragson has done something else that no other drivers have managed — walked away with multiple bonus checks.
The Xfinity Series has a special program, the Dash 4 Cash, that awards $100,000 to one of four drivers during a four-week stretch. These drivers do not have to win the race in order to score the money, they just have to achieve a better finishing position than their peers. Gragson has won two of the four Dash 4 Cash races so far and could add a third at Dover. He nearly had a third Dash 4 Cash bonus, but officials disqualified him after the Darlington race due to a suspension issue.
2022 could be the perfect season for JRM to reach the Cup Series
There have been many teams in the past that tried to find success in NASCAR’s top series but struggled to do so. The costs were a significant factor in their failure. Moving forward, however, NASCAR has the goal of making the Cup Series more accessible for owners. Introducing the more cost-effective Next Gen car is a significant step in the journey.
“I think you’ve heard it from the likes of Michael Jordan, Denny Hamlin with 23XI racing,” NASCAR President Steve Phelps said during the Next Gen unveil. “We’ve heard it from Trackhouse Racing from Justin Marks and Pitbull, and from Live Fast Racing with Matt Tifft and B.J. McLeod. There’s an eagerness for ownership to come to this sport. I think this car and the importance of this car, what it represents, is at the heart of what that would be.
“Certainly other things that are positive that are happening in this sport that would allow for new owners to have interest in this sport. The growth that the sport is experiencing, the direction that it’s going in, and the collaboration that we’re seeing around the industry is unlike any we’ve seen in this sport before.”
Phelps also explained to Motorsport.com that “the costs associated with the vehicle will be lower in terms of its absolute cost as well as the number of cars that will be necessary to run and run up front.” He added at the time that the costs would help create renewed interest with other manufacturers.
With the Next Gen car offering a lower barrier of entry to new owners and manufacturers, 2022 could be the perfect season for JRM to make the leap. If so, they will join Kaulig Racing, another team that recently unveiled plans to compete in Cup during the 2022 season.
READ NEXT: NASCAR Announces All-Star Race Format