After winning three out of the last five races, JR Motorsports is gaining all the right momentum at the right time, but does it make JRM the favorite in the NASCAR Xfinity Series once again?
Allow me to take you back to a (not really) simpler time last season, when Noah Gragson was beating everything and anything that drove on an oval on Saturdays and Ty Gibbs was still slumping heading into the playoffs. Then, fast forward a few weeks, and three out of the four cars in the Championship 4 were JR Motorsports rides. There was no way JRM could have screwed that up, right?
(Insert corny buzzer sound) Wrong. See the tweet for proof.
Was Gibbs wickedly fast? Yes.
But did JRM also somehow manage to pull off one of the biggest choke jobs in recent memory? You bet they did. These two realities are not mutually exclusive by any sense of the term, and we very well could be heading right back to those same circumstances now, so let’s compare.
Justin Allgaier is still Justin Allgaier. He’s fast, he’s smooth and he’s safe. You know he’s going to a) bring the car home in one piece and b) probably do so in a very competitive manner. He is still the staple of this JRM team, just like last season.
The same could be said about Josh Berry. He has a bit different skill set than Allgaier, but he does race clean and he’s one of the better drivers on the track when he’s got a fast car. Here’s where things get weird, though.
Last year, the No. 9 car with Gragson at the wheel was even my pick to win it all after he torched the field for the latter half of the season. This year, though, that same No. 9 car has done the exact opposite. In this column, specifically, the Brandon Jones hire has been the most questionable one of the offseason, and rightfully so, but then we get to the wildcard.
Sam Mayer is the X-factor in all of this. If he goes out and drives like he’s been able to in his two wins this season, he very well could be the one that brings that coveted trophy back to JRM, which would be their fourth overall with the last one coming in 2018.
In fact, I’ll go as far to say that if any JRM driver has enough of a wild factor to win it all right now, it’s Mayer. Especially if he keeps showing up in his new hat.
JRM has been on the cusp of another championship multiple times since 2018, and have repeatedly come up short. They have the confidence in Mayer to bring them back to that standard and breathe new life into their program for hope towards the future, and 2023 may just be the start, so long as they can stave off the choking habit for a few more races.
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