Dave Elenz

Getty Images

JR Motorsports announces driver, crew chief lineup

Leave a comment

JR Motorsports announced Monday the driver, crew chief lineup for its four Xfinity Series entries this season, including two returning drivers.

The entries include the full-time efforts of veterans Justin Allgaier and Michael Annett, in addition to rookie driver Noah Gragson.

Alllgaier, the senior driver with the team at four years, will drive the No. 7 Chevrolet under the direction of crew chief Jason Burdett, who has led the team since 2015.

At 32, Allgaier is the oldest driver at JRM. He’s older than Annett by 18 days.

Annett is back in the No. 5 Chevrolet for his third season with the team. He is paired with crew chief Travis Mack, who took over crew chief duties on the No. 5 for 13 of the last 14 races in 2018.

Gragson makes the move to the Xfinity Series after two seasons in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series with Kyle Busch Motorsports.

Gragson will step into the No. 1 Chevrolet to replace Elliott Sadler who stepped away from full-time racing after 2018. Gragson will have crew chief Dave Elenz and the crew that worked with champion Tyler Reddick in 2018 on the No. 9 team.

The No. 9 team will be a multi-driver effort this season anchored by eight races with Zane Smith in the cockpit. The team will be led by first-time crew chief Taylor Moyer. Moyer joins JRM after four years with Hendrick Motorsports as a race engineer for Kasey Kahne and William Byron.

 and on Facebook

Dave Elenz among small group of Xfinity crew chiefs to win multiple titles

Leave a comment

Dave Elenz had two very different experiences in his last two seasons as crew chief of JR Motorsports’ No. 9 Chevrolet, but still wound up as a Xfinity Series champion each year.

In 2017, Elenz and rookie driver William Byron claimed four wins, 12 top fives and finished third in the season finale to earn the title.

This season, again paired with a rookie driver in Tyler Reddick, the No. 9 team made it to the Championship 4 with just one win and six top fives.

They left Miami with their second win and JR Motorsports’ third Xfinity title.

Elenz, 37, is just the 10th Xfinity crew chief since 1982 and the fourth since 2000 to win multiple titles.

Both of those came in his first two years as crew chief for full-time drivers. In 2015, he worked with five drivers. In 2016, he worked with seven.

“Dave is critical,” JR Motorsports co-owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. said Saturday after Reddick’s win. “Dave’s ability to take those young guys and mold them into men and mold them into people that believe in themselves and know what they need to do and don’t drive over their head, don’t make a lot of mistakes, they’re going to make mistakes.  Everybody does.  They will continue to make them.  But Dave has them ready when it’s time to be ready.  You saw it in Tyler throughout the playoffs.”

Reddick entered the playoffs with four top fives. In the seven-race playoff, he earned three top fives (all in the final four races) and placed outside the top 10 just once at Dover.

At Miami, Reddick took advantage of bad pit strategy by Cole Custer‘s team and passed Christopher Bell for the lead with 37 laps to go. He spent the rest of the race running against the fence, scraping the wall multiple times but going unchallenged to the checkered flag.

“(Reddick) had a good focus and ran hard, ran aggressive but never took himself out or did anything to hurt their chances of getting here to Homestead,” Earnhardt said. “Dave has a big involvement in his ability to do that, as Dave is coaching him throughout the year to put him in position to make those last few laps and keep the car out of the fence.”

The victory was Elenz’s 10th as a crew chief. Those wins have come with five drivers: Byron (four), Kevin Harvick (two), Earnhardt (one), Chase Elliott (one) and Reddick (two).

Elenz doesn’t know why he meshes well with young drivers.

“Every year it’s a fresh guy with a new style of driving, new thoughts and everything,” Elenz said Saturday.  “As they progress throughout the year, you let them make their mistakes, try to be easy on them and just when they’re down, try to bring them up a little bit.  But I don’t really know what it is.  I know we have great teammates like Dale was saying, and with Elliott (Sadler) and Justin (Allgaier), they help guide the 9 team quite a bit because it’s tougher for the young guys to tell us what they need.  We’ve got two of the best right next to us in the crew chiefs that help me out to make sure we’re not getting too far off base.”

Elenz will likely be paired with yet another rookie driver in 2019. Incoming driver Noah Gragson sat on the No. 9 team’s pit box for during the Miami race.

“I think that only makes sense,” team co-owner Kelley Earnhardt Miller said Saturday. “(With) Kevin (Meendering) moving up (to crew chief Jimmie Johnson in Cup), and we’re still working on our fourth car, but the three cars that we have in place, we’ve got three crew chiefs in-house, and seems like that would make the most sense.”

Multiple Championships (1982 – 2018) – Crew Chiefs
Steve Bird      1989, ’95, ’96, ’97
Jack Ingram    1982, ’85
Gere Kennon  1983, ’84
Ricky Pearson 1986, ’87
Bob Labonte   1991, ’94
Tony Eury Jr.  1998, ’99
Kevin Manion  2004, ’05
Mike Kelley      2011, ’12
Scott Graves   2015, ’16
David Elenz     2017, ’18

 and on Facebook

Xfinity crew chiefs for William Byron, Dakoda Armstrong suspended for The Glen violations

Getty Images
Leave a comment

NASCAR issued two penalties Wednesday from last Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Watkins Glen International:

* The No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet, driven by William Byron, was assessed an L1 penalty for post-race violations of rear body inspection heights that were outside NASCAR-allowed tolerances.

Crew chief David Elenz was fined $10,000 and suspended for this weekend’s Xfinity Series race at Mid-Ohio.

Byron’s 10th-place finish was encumbered, and he was penalized 10 driver points, while JR Motorsports also was penalized 10 owner points.

Kelley Earnhardt Miller, general manager of JR Motorsports, issued the following statement:

“After communicating with NASCAR on the penalty incurred by the No. 9 team following last weekend’s race at Watkins Glen, we recognize and accept it. The team will move on to Mid-Ohio this weekend with engineer Brandon McSwain serving as interim crew chief for William Byron and the No. 9 Axalta team. Director of Competition Ryan Pemberton will help call the race from pit road on Saturday.”

* The No. 28 Toyota of Dakoda Armstrong was assessed a safety violation for weight affixed improperly.

Crew chief Stephen Lane and car chief Rick Markle have been suspended for the next three NASCAR Xfinity Series events, starting with Saturday’s race.

They will also miss races at Bristol (Aug. 18) and Road America (Aug. 27).

Armstrong was not penalized.

There were no penalties assessed to any teams in the NASCAR Cup Series.

Follow @JerryBonkowski



William Byron to drive No. 5 Cup car next season for Hendrick Motorsports (video)


William Byron will drive the No. 5 Cup car next year for Hendrick Motorsports, according to sources and multiple reports.

An announcement is expected in the coming days.

Sports Business Journal first reported that the 19-year-old Byron was expected to be announced as the team’s new driver, moving up from his Xfinity Series ride at JR Motorsports. SB Nation and Motorsport.com also followed with similar reports.

Hendrick Motorsports announced Monday that it had released Kasey Kahne from the final year of his contract, creating the opening with the No. 5 Chevrolet for next season. The organization stated it would announce plans for its four-car operation at a later date.

Byron’s success has fueled speculation he could replace Kahne. Byron has won three of the last seven Xfintiy races, scoring victories at Iowa, Daytona and Indianapolis.

Byron won the 2015 K&N Pro Series East title. He won seven races last year in the Camping World Truck Series for Kyle Busch Motorsports. Byron signed a multi-year contract with Hendrick Motorsports on Aug. 18, 2016.

Crew chief Dave Elenz sought to explain what has led to Byron’s meteoric rise after Byron won the Xfinity race at Daytona last month.

“He’s just special,’’ Elenz said. ”I don’t know how to say anything other than that. He gets it done under the biggest moments. He never cracks under any sort of pressure. The more difficult situation you put him in, the better he does. That’s just a special individual. I don’t think we have a lot of them in the sport. Thankful to work with him.’’

 and on Facebook

Silly Season: Will it include William Byron and Ryan Blaney?


Among the many tantalizing silly season prospects are what might happen to a pair of young drivers — William Byron and Ryan Blaney.

The 19-year-old Byron, who signed with Hendrick Motorsports in August 2016, has shown success in everything he’s raced. He won seven Truck races for Kyle Busch Motorsports last season and has won the past two Xfinity races for JR Motorsports.

It’s led to the question of if Byron could be driving a Cup car next year for Hendrick Motorsports. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is retiring after this season, creating a vacancy with the No. 88 team, and there have been questions about if Kasey Kahne will remain with the team even though he has another year left on his contract.

Asked Wednesday on “The Morning Drive” if he’s been approached or offered a Cup ride for next year, Byron said:

“I definitely would like to be in the Cup Series at some point, and I feel like I would be ready for that, but I think right now, really just focused on this season with (JR Motorsports) and trying to win a championship,’’ Byron told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

“The distractions can be definitely detrimental to our race team. We’re just trying to continue to win races and put myself out there and get my name out there. I (have) all the confidence in everyone at Hendrick Motorsports and JRM to make those decisions.’’

What’s remarkable about Byron’s success is that he didn’t begin racing until he was 14 years old, driving a Legends car.

“He’s just special,’’ crew chief Dave Elenz said. “He gets it done under the biggest moments. He never cracks under any sort of pressure. The more difficult situation you put him in the better he does. That’s just a special individual. I don’t think we have a lot of them in the sport.’’

Ryan Blaney after winning at Pocono Raceway on June 11, 2017. (Getty Images)

Blaney, 23, could be one who fits in that category. He scored his first career Cup victory last month at Pocono Raceway.

His future is uncertain as well. While he drives for the Wood Brothers, he is a Team Penske driver.

Car owner Roger Penske told USA Today last month that he’d like to have Blaney in the Team Penske fold as soon as possible. Asked if that could happen next year, Penske said “could be.’’

Where will Blaney race next year?

“You know, I don’t really think about that stuff,’’ Blaney told reporters Wednesday on a conference call. “Yeah, there’s been talks about it for years, really ever since I got with the Penske group, and things just haven’t really come together. I love the Wood Brothers and driving for them has been really special for me and my family. I couldn’t ask for a greater group of people.

“But the things I’m mostly concentrated on now is trying to win race 100 for the Wood Brothers (they’re at 99 now). That’s something I would really like to achieve, and I think we can do it. I believe we can really do that.

“I’m going to be happy wherever I end up, whether it’s the Wood Brothers or Penske or whatever. … I’m sure we’ll figure something out here soon, but as of right now, I’m just driving the 21 car this year and pretty happy to be where I’m at.’’

 and on Facebook