After having their most successful season as a company to date, JR Motorsports is coming back in 2015 looking to have an even better year.
Looking back at 2014
When everyone talks about JR Motorsports, the discussion focuses on Chase Elliott’s championship and Regan Smith finishing runner-up. The 1-2 finish is certainly an accomplishment for the organization, but it isn’t the sole discussion topic when it comes to JR Motorsports. The team also runs a third car, numbered 5 in 2014, that is split between a select few Sprint Cup Series drivers and a couple young guys. The idea is to give some young drivers a shot to prove themselves and possibly land a bigger ride in the future, while allowing the Cup drivers to run the cars for some fun of their own. Plus, having guys like Kevin Harvick and team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. behind the wheel can’t hurt with regards to research and development in improving the entire organization.
The No. 5 team, led by Ernie Cope, had success with Kevin Harvick picking up four victories, 12 top-fives and 15 top-10s in 15 starts. Dale Earnhardt Jr. ran three races – finishing top-10 in each – while Kasey Kahne picked up a win at Daytona in the summer behind the wheel. Three young drivers also got a shot behind the wheel – Josh Berry, Alex Bowman and Austin Theriault – each having a certain degree of success. Berry impressed in his debut at Iowa Speedway with a 12th place finish, while Bowman put himself for a top-five in his starts but found himself on the side of bad luck. Theriault also impressed in his debut at Iowa Speedway, finishing 15th.
Looking ahead at 2015
Now under the No. 88 for 2015, the future for the team is stronger than ever. With Cope moving over to the No. 9 team with Chase Elliott, Dave Elenz will take over as crew chief for the team. Elenz has spent the last three years at Hendrick Motorsports as an engineer on both Jimmie Johnson’s and Earnhardt Jr.’s team, after spending time with Jasper Racing, Ginn Racing and Red Bull Racing. Crew chiefs with an engineering background normally equal success when they get on the pit box, and the Hendrick Motorsports building system of crew chief training has proved to work in the past. Expect Elenz to fit into the role seamlessly.
Of course, Elenz will have some talented Sprint Cup regulars behind the wheel of his cars to help him get acquainted with the position quickly. Harvick will be returning to run some races once again, along with Kahne and Earnhardt Jr. JR Motorsports has yet to announce the finalized schedule, but having these three Sprint Cup drivers behind the wheel can only help JRM continue to get stronger.
The team will see a new addition to the driver line-up in 2015, though, in the form of Ben Rhodes. Rhodes won the NASCAR K&N Pro East Series Championship last year with five victories and 13 top-10s in the 16 races. He has made four NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts, scoring three top-10 finishes. Expect Rhodes to fit in nicely with the group and be in the top 15 right off the bat. It would also not be a surprise if Rhodes pulls off some top-10s, and even maybe a top-five finish.