What Car Does Dale Jr Drive: JR Motorsports Legacy Explained

June 11, 2024

In 1998, JR Motorsports first emerged as the marketing division of Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s race team. Co-owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr., his sister Kelley Earnhardt Miller, her husband L.W. Miller, and Rick Hendrick, this team has grown to become a formidable presence in various racing series. Today, the team competes in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series, CARS Tour, and occasionally in the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series.

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Historical Development

JR Motorsports had humble beginnings, starting in a shed on the property of Dale Earnhardt, Inc., originally focusing on merchandise sales. However, their ambitions soon grew. The team started racing operations in 2002 with T.J. Majors and subsequently merged with Hendrick Motorsports’ Nationwide Series team. This merger followed Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s signing with Hendrick. The team's first significant victory came in 2004 at Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, VA. By 2006, JR Motorsports officially began competing in the Xfinity Series, their operations bolstered by sponsorship from the United States Navy.

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Major Developments

The growth of JR Motorsports has been marked by several key developments. From operating out of a 66,000-square-foot race shop in Mooresville, North Carolina, the team has always prioritized infrastructure and strategy. In 2019, they partnered with GMS Racing to create the Drivers Edge Development program, focusing on nurturing future racing talents like Noah Gragson and Sam Mayer.

Xfinity Series Car Histories

Car No. 1

Over the years, Car No. 1 has been driven by notable drivers like Elliott Sadler and Michael Annett. More recently, Sam Mayer has taken the wheel, securing notable victories and strong playoff finishes.

Car No. 5

This car has had a storied history with multiple drivers, including Jimmie Johnson and Mark Martin. It functioned as a full-time car until switching to Car No. 1 in 2019.

Car No. 7

From Danica Patrick to Regan Smith, the No. 7 Chevrolet Camaro has consistently been a strong contender. Since 2016, Justin Allgaier has been a key driver, securing multiple wins and consistent playoff appearances.

Car No. 8

The No. 8 car became part of JR Motorsports in 2019. Driven by Josh Berry and now Sammy Smith, it has had several successful playoff runs.

Car No. 9

Formerly driven by champions like Chase Elliott and Tyler Reddick, Car No. 9 is currently under Brandon Jones. The car has earned series championships and Rookie of the Year honors in the past.

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Miscellaneous and Special Programs

JR Motorsports has also ventured into other series like the Camping World Truck Series. Though they fielded truck No. 00, driven by notable names like Cole Custer, the program was short-lived from 2015 to 2016 as they shifted focus back to the Xfinity Series. Additionally, the team fields late model programs in the CARS Tour and NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series, featuring drivers such as Josh Berry, Anthony Alfredo, and Carson Kvapil.

Noteworthy Points

Potential Moves to Cup Series

Dale Earnhardt Jr. hinted at a potential move to the Cup Series in 2022, spurred by cost reductions associated with the Next Gen car. However, challenges remain, including securing charters and sponsorships.

Strategy and Infrastructure

JR Motorsports places a heavy emphasis on its 66,000-square-foot facility and strategic hires to enhance team performance. Recent leadership changes include the replacement of Director of Competition Ryan Pemberton with Mike Bumgarner in 2022.

Driver Development Initiatives

The collaboration with GMS Racing through the Drivers Edge Development program underscores JR Motorsports' commitment to nurturing driving talent, ensuring a steady influx of skilled drivers into their ranks.

Special Participation

JR Motorsports' involvement in various racing series goes beyond the Xfinity Series, adding to their comprehensive racing footprint and signifying their versatility and expertise across different types of racing.

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