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JR Motorsports talks about losing talented drivers to the NASCAR Cup Series

JR Motorsports discuses the feelings of watching its talented drivers move to the NASCAR Cup Series after spending years with the team.

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John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

JR Motorsports has been one of the powerhouse teams in the NASCAR Xfinity Series for several years but it hasn’t come without significant movement of its driver lineup. This is due to the elevation of its drivers to the NASCAR Cup Series.

Many drivers, such as Noah Gragson, Tyler Reddick, William Byron, and Chase Elliott, have made the move to NASCAR’s top level after having tremendous success with JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series. In fact, another driver could add themselves to the list for the 2024 season.

Josh Berry is considered a top candidate to replace Kevin Harvick at Stewart-Haas Racing next year. On that note, one might consider the emotions and organization turnover on a yearly basis for a team that frequently loses talented drivers.

Related: JR Motorsports provides update on acquiring a charter in the NASCAR Cup Series

JR Motorsports discusses the challenges of losing drivers to the NASCAR Cup Series

JR Motorsports
Nov 5, 2022; Avondale, Arizona, USA; NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Noah Gragson (9) during the Xfinity Series Championship at Phoenix Raceway. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

It has not been the season that many at JR Motorsports were expecting in 2023. Last year, three of the four full-time drivers for the organization made the Championship 4 but came short of the title. This included a staggering 15 wins in 33 races.

The opposite has taken place this season. Through 11 races, none of the four full-time drivers have found victory lane. In fact, Brandon Jones is currently out of the playoff picture and looking to climb his way back in with Sam Mayer close to the cut-line.

It has been one of the most surprising stories of the 2023 season as JR Motorsports looks to reclaim its winning ways. Meanwhile, the talk has been about the organization’s desire to move up to the NASCAR Cup Series. For now, it will take the charter market to decrease in value.

While all the talk is about the organization, what about its drivers moving to the Cup Series? Kelley Earnhardt Miller, the CEO and co-owner of JR Motorsports, went on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio to discuss the feelings of watching the team’s drivers move to the top level.

“It is challenging, it’s hard because you have people that come through the program that you don’t need to really race in the (NASCAR Xfinity Series). You’re probably gonna be there two or three years and get looked at by a (NASCAR Cup Series) team to bring you up, so it is hard to lose those people. At the same time, one of (JR Motorsports)’s successes is the fact that we have some veterans that have been in our program that can help create the paths for those that move up too. We’ve had a great mix of veterans and young drivers and it’s always fun to see the drivers move up to the Cup Series.”

Kelley Earnhardt Miller on JR Motorsports losing drivers to the top level

This is one of the downsides of being an owner in the Xfinity Series. A team can build massive success with a driver only for it to be completely different next year. JR Motorsports is seeing it take place with the No. 9 team right now.

Gragson won eight races in 2022 and looked to be the top driver in the Xfinity Series. Fast forward to the No. 9 team’s performances through 11 races in 2023 and Jones sits 43 points below the playoff bubble.

At the same time, it is gratifying to see these drivers move up to NASCAR’s top level. It is an important part of their development and JR Motorsports has been vital in the careers of many drivers who are seeing tremendous success now.

Every story is different but the more success that the organization sees overall, the more turnover the team will have each year. JR Motorsports sure hopes to replicate that for the 2024 season as the current campaign has been a little more challenging than usual.

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