Race Weekend Central

JR Motorsports Fires on All Cylinders but Falls to Nemechek at Michigan

BROOKLYN, Mich. – Fresh off of its second win of the season at Road America, JR Motorsports showed up to play at Michigan International Speedway with three cars in the top four of Friday’s (Aug. 4) NASCAR Xfinity Series qualifying session.

Qualifying pace converted to the race, and while all four cars were among the fastest in the field, Josh Berry and Brandon Jones were no match for John Hunter Nemchek in a seven-lap shootout at Michigan as Nemechek cruised to his fifth Xfinity win of the season after leading 65 of the race’s 125 laps.

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Berry won the pole, and while he failed to lead a lap, he tied his best result of the 2023 with a runner-up performance.

“I’m a little bit disappointed obviously that we didn’t win, but I’m really proud of the effort that everybody at JR Motorsports and Hendrick Motorsports has been putting forth,” Berry said. “You know, obviously, we weren’t where we needed to be at the beginning of the year, but we’ve made our cars a lot better throughout the season, working with each other and trusting each other.

“So, I think if we just directionally just keep doing what we’re doing and keep doing the right things, we’ll find ourselves in victory lane soon.”

Berry will also compete in tomorrow’s Cup race for Legacy Motor Club, but he didn’t think that the Xfinity race was much of a warmup.

“No, I don’t think so, the cars are so different that it’s just hard to really compare them,” Berry said. “And just for me, I think I’m confident that once I get in the Cup car more consistently – and only the Cup car – I think I’ll be able to learn the nuances of it a little bit faster.”

It’s been a rough start to Jones’ JR Motorsports campaign, but Jones was able to put some of the troubles to rest after a third-place finish at Michigan, his best of the season.

“Great momentum, right? I mean, that’s what this team really needs,” Jones said. “We just got to get going here and show for the fast race cars that we’re bringing to the track every week.

“All in all, great day for us, you know, I think this is really good. We need the turnaround and momentum these next couple weeks.”

Jones now has three top 10s in a row, and he is only 45 points below the cut line with five races to go in the regular season championship, a gap that he thinks is manageable.

“There’s still a position to point our way in, I think,” Jones said. “You got to really dominate some stages. You got to get some good finishes. I think that’s the key to it. I don’t think that just finishing good at the end of the day is going to get you there.

“I would like to just get a win and get it over with, but there’s a chance that we can still do it.”

Sam Mayer scored his maiden Xfinity win at Road America last Saturday (July 29), and he backed it up with his third straight top-five finish in Xfinity.

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“Our cars were all really fast, we put ourselves in good spots all day, we were right out front,” Mayer said. “Track position was very important today, and I kind of lost out a little bit with getting loose at times, but we worked hard today, we did what we could; we were a little short.

“It’s always good being disappointed with a top five, so we’re looking to come back for more next week.”

With JRM picking up the pace in recent weeks, Mayer feels good about the schedule that lies ahead.

“[Michigan] was the only one in the next eight weeks that I was like, ‘man, I don’t know what I have at this track.’

“Obviously, today we ran really, really well, and that’s all you can do. Going into the rest of the season and into the playoffs, these are all tracks that I look forward to going to, and I know I can do really good at.”

Last – but not least – for JRM was Justin Allgaier, who finished 14th with potentially the fastest car in the field.

It was a bump from Ty Gibbs on pit road after stage two that dropped Allgaier from second to 30th, and while he had worked his way back up to the top five, a crew member over the wall too soon penalty ruined his chances at a comeback win.

Michigan was the race after Road America, where Allgaier led 42 of the 49 laps but failed to win after spinning out in overtime. With two heart-breaking losses back-to-back, his post-race reaction to this one said it all.

About the author

Stephen Stumpf is the NASCAR Content Director for Frontstretch, and his weekly columns include “Stat Sheet” and “4 Burning Questions.” Stephen also writes commentary, contributes weekly to the “Bringing the Heat” podcast and is frequently at the track for on-site coverage. A native of Texas, Stephen began following NASCAR at age 9 after attending his first race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Follow on Twitter @stephen_stumpf.

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SB

Accident or not, I’m still no fan of Ty Gibbs.

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