JR Motorsports, Spire Motorsports name crew chiefs entering 2021

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JR Motorsports’ director of race operations is returning to his former role as a crew chief.

Mike Bumgarner will lead driver Michael Annett and the No. 1 team for the 2021 NASCAR Xfinity Series season, the team announced Thursday.

Before serving as JRM’s director of race operations from 2014-20, Bumgarner was crew chief for the No. 5 team in the 2013 season.

That year, Bumgarner worked primarily with Brad Sweet (17 races), but also with other drivers, including Kasey Kahne (11 races), Jimmie Johnson (1 race) and Jamie McMurray (1 race).

“I don’t think it’s going to be a big change,” Bumgarner said of going back to being a crew chief in a JRM release. “If anything, it’s going to help me be better. I haven’t been able to go to the race track and see what things are going on. You try to learn as much as you can from what the teams bring back to the shop and add that to our cars.

“Being more involved is a positive and I’m excited for that, being able to go to the track again. I’ll have to learn the stage-racing side of it, and I’m looking forward to that challenge.”

Bumgarner has made select appearances as a crew chief in recent years, including the 2016 Xfinity championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where he supported Elliott Sadler in place of regular crew chief Kevin Meendering. Sadler finished third in that race, and second in points.

Annett and the No. 1 team come off back-to-back playoff appearances under previous crew chief Travis Mack.

Last month, it was announced that Mack was leaving JRM to join new Cup Series team Trackhouse Racing, where he’ll work with driver Daniel Suarez.

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Cup Series team Spire Motorsports confirmed Thursday that Ryan Sparks and Kevin Bellicourt will be crew chiefs for their two-car program in 2021. Both are newcomers to the organization.

Sparks will join the No. 7 team and reunite with driver Corey LaJoie after working together last year at Go Fas Racing. Prior to last year, he served as race engineer for Austin Dillon on the No. 3 Cup team at Richard Childress Racing.

Bellicourt will lead the No. 77 team, which currently does not have a driver for next season. In 2019 and 2020, Bellicourt was a crew chief for NASCAR Camping World Truck Series team Bill McAnally Racing.

This past season, Bellicourt guided rookie driver Derek Kraus to 13 top-10 finishes and an 11th-place finish in the standings.

Spire’s expansion for 2021 also includes NBC Sports annalyst Steve Letarte, who confirmed Wednesday to Motorsport.com that he is working as a consultant for the organization.

Letarte, who claimed 15 Cup wins as a crew chief during his career, said the role serves as “a great arm’s length way to stay in touch” with the competition side of the sport, which in turn helps him in his broadcasting role.