JR Motorsports, which has three of its cars contending for a spot in the championship round, will be without “a little more than half” of its pit crew after a charter plane carrying them made an emergency landing Saturday in Arkansas.
The plane was flying from Memphis, Tennessee, to Amarillo, Texas on its way to Phoenix when it experienced an electrical issue, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
The crew declared an emergency and landed without incident at 7:43 a.m. CT at Clinton National Airport in Little Rock, Arkansas, Ryan DiVita, director of marketing and sales for AeroDynamics, Inc., the plane carrier, told NBC Sports.
“The crew did exactly what they should,” DiVita said.
He said that pilots followed a checklist that the plane should land at the nearest suitable airport.
There were 51 people on the Embraer 145, according to a spokesperson at Clinton National Airport.
The plane was grounded because of the electrical issue and no other plane was available to send the passengers to Phoenix in time for Saturday’s race.
The issue comes as three of JRM’s driver – Elliott Sadler, William Byron and Justin Allgaier – are trying to advance to next week’s championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. All three of JRM’s playoff drivers enter today’s race above the cutline. Allgiaer told NBCSN he has “no concern” about the team’s pit crew situation.
“At the end of the day we have the best pit crew on pit road normally,” Allgaier said. “That’s a little disappointing that those guys aren’t here, because I do feel really confident with those guys. One thing I know is, everybody at Hendrick Motorsports, that we use their pit crews and everybody here at JR Motorsports, they rally behind adversity. I know the guys we’re going to assemble are going to be just as good. I’m looking forward to that challenge.”
JRM will have to cobble together pit crews to service the cars. NBCSN’s Marty Snider reported that JRM only had two of their regular 24 pit crew members at the track.
“We have some guys that we normally use, we have some guys that are training with HMS that are pitting other vehicles that will participate with us and we have a little bit of help from our partners in Chevrolet groups and a few other teams that have a few guys here that are willing to assist us,” said Ryan Pemberton, Jr. Motorsports’ director of competition. “We’re still working through who’s on first and what’s on second, it’s kind of like that routine right now. As far as enough people to do it, we have … enough people to put the show on.”
A Hendrick plane took off from Phoenix for Clinton National Airport in Little Rock, Arkansas, at 12:45 p.m. ET to pick up the crews. There were members of other Cup teams that were on the flight that landed in Arkansas.
Following the race, team co-owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. was asked why the team didn’t bring its pit crews to the track on Friday.
“It’s probably an expense issue as far as hotel room and so forth,” Earnhardt said. “There’s planes that fly up here that are on a schedule that don’t abide by our schedule. We have to abide by theirs. We take the opportunity to get here or they take the opportunity to get here when they can. We can’t control … those people. We sort of take the opportunity when we can to get there.”
JD Motorsports crew members were also on the flight. After Brennan Poole was eliminated from the race in a crash, members of Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 48 team helped pit one of JDM’s cars.
Dustin Long contributed to this report in Arizona.