By David Morgan, NASCAR Writer
After placing both of their cars in the top-five in points in 2015, JR Motorsports headed into the 2016 season with a retooled driver lineup and after Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Daytona, the team is showing the entire garage that they will be a force to be reckoned with throughout the season.
Though the four cars that JR Motorsports had entered in Saturday’s Powershares QQQ 300 didn’t show the type of speed the team would have wanted in qualifying, starting 10th, 15th, 16th, and 19th, once the race began, they showed their true strength in the draft.
The two part-time cars for the team, the No. 88 and No. 5, piloted by NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regulars Chase Elliott and Kasey Kahne, respectively, led the way as they led the most laps for the team as well as scoring the top finishes of the four team cars.
Elliott took the lead late in the race with help from teammate Elliott Sadler, was able to hold the point and hold off a late charge from Joey Logano. Logano managed to get alongside Elliott heading to the finish line and even though the two bounced off of each other enough to cave in Elliott’s right rear quarter panel, the second generation driver was able to keep his Chevrolet in the lead to score his first win at Daytona. The win is also the third in the last five Daytona races for JR Motorsports.
“It was a heck of a battle, man. Thanks to TaxSlayer, first off, for letting me drive this thing. Everybody at JR Motorsports, the Hendrick engine shop did a great job today. Had such a good car and we just found ourselves in the right place at the right time at the end and luckily, just barely had enough to get in front of Joey there,” said Elliott.
Kahne would finish the race in third, with Sadler losing momentum on the final lap to finish fourth. The fourth team car piloted by Justin Allgaier was penalized late in the race for a pit road infraction, but still managed to bring home a 12th place finish.
“I can’t tell you how proud I am of everybody back at JR Motorsports. The team, they built me such a great race car. We put so much effort into this deal. Dale and Kelley have given me a great opportunity. We have so many people here from One Main and so many fans that love this sport and have been with this company such a long time here to support us. We were in position and that’s all you can ask for,” said Sadler. “Very proud of this race team, that’s a strong run right out of the box.”
Team owner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. also weighed in on his team’s early season success.
— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) February 20, 2016
As the season goes on, JR Motorsports should be able to keep both of their full-time cars (Sadler and Allgaier) in the midst of the championship battle, and perhaps this is the year that the team makes it back to the championship stage at season’s end.
Image: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images