Follow the leader: JR Motorsports carries Dale Jr.’s mantle in Xfinity plate races


The last time the Xfinity Series visited Daytona International Speedway, the race ended in the familiar sight of a bunch of drivers trying – and failing – to chase down a car with the No. 88 on its side.

But for once, the driver who emerged from the car wasn’t Dale Earnhardt Jr., who has won 10 times at Daytona in the Sprint Cup and Xfinity Series. It was Chase Elliott, who got to celebrate with Earnhardt the team owner.

Elliott’s win – his first on a restrictor-plate track – was the third JR Motorsports triumph at Daytona in five starts. It followed a sweep of the 2014 races by Regan Smith and Kasey Kahne.

In addition to his win in February, Elliott also earned the pole in both Sprint Cup plate races.

Like its owner, JR Motorsports’ restrictor-plate success is not limited to the Florida coast. The team has returned from Talladega Superspeedway victorious twice since 2013. Elliott Sadler claimed the win in May’s race after he was ruled to be the leader when the caution came out on the final lap.

“Our restrictor-plate program is very good right now,” Sadler said in a press release. “We had the lead at Daytona on the last lap to start the season and we just won Talladega a few weeks ago. We’re in a position, being locked in the Chase, where we can go down this weekend and be aggressive and do everything we can to just focus on winning the race.”

Sadler’s win gives JRM five in the last 10 races on plate tracks with four different drivers. The team’s avg finish of 4.57 in the first two plate races of 2016 is five positions better than any other team.

JRM will have Elliott, Sadler and Justin Allgaier on the track for this weekend’s Firecracker 250. The three drivers combined have three plate wins. Allgaier has three top fives in 17  Xfinity starts at plate races.

If one of them winds up in victory lane, it would make JR Motorsports the third team to sweep the Xfinity Series’ three plate races. The last two were Joe Gibbs Racing in 2008 and Dale Earnhardt, Inc. in 2003.

That year, Earnhardt pulled the feat off himself, leading 227 laps on the way to three wins.