By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Premium Motorsports acquired its biggest asset in team history Monday. Danica Patrick will pilot the No. 7 GoDaddy Chevrolet for her final Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start in the 60th Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 18.
The Jay Robinson owned operation went all in on making their 500 effort its best yet with Richard Childress Racing supplying ECR Engines for Robinson and pairing Patrick with Tony Eury, Jr. as her crew chief.
Danica won’t have to worry about racing her way for a spot on the grid either as the No. 7 team is a charter entrant, giving the team its strongest chance of scoring its second consecutive top-10 finish at The Great American Race.
While Robinson’s team will garner its biggest publicity, thanks to auto racing’s media darling competing in one of his cars, what is forgotten is the pending announcement of Robinson’s No. 15 Chevrolet, primarily driven by Reed Sorenson last season.
In the meantime, the message is clear. Premium Motorsports has come a long way from being just another underfunded team.
The formerly known Jay Robinson Racing has competed across NASCAR’s three national series since June 17, 2000, beginning when Robinson fielded its first Xfinity Series ride with Rodney Childers driving the No. 49 Chevrolet at Myrtle Beach Speedway.
The team’s debut didn’t last as Childers was collected in a six-car pileup, finishing 43rd after completing 69 laps.
Childers would never make another start in the series again, but later gained fame as a successful Cup Series crew chief, winning with drivers David Reutimann, Brian Vickers and Kevin Harvick, whom the latter captured their first championship together in 2014.
Robinson has since fielded dozens of drivers and made several manufacturer changes. Despite the transitions, Robinson’s team scored four top-10 finishes with its first taking place in the attrition-filled 2002 Aaron’s 312 at Talladega. Andy Kirby brought the car home in sixth, two laps behind race winner Jason Keller. It was Kirby’s only top-10 effort with his life being cut short in a motorcycle crash in Tennessee, three months after his biggest achievement.
Six years later, Kenny Wallace brought the No. 28 Toyota home with an impressive third at Memphis Motorsports Park for its only top-5 effort in team history. Wallace scored two more top-10s a year later, but it proved to be the team’s final Xfinity Series success as Robinson closed his shop after the 2011 season.
Three years later, Robinson made his NASCAR ownership return with the re-branded Premium Motorsports. This time, operating a Cup team with six drivers in its first season including Joe Nemechek making 16 starts in the No. 66 Toyota. Nemechek finished no better than 31st at the Kansas spring race.
In four Cup seasons, their average finish is 33.2 with six top-20 finishes including 20th at Dover on June 1, 2016, piloted by Ross Chastain, which is Robinson’s best finish at a non-restrictor plate track.
In five of those top-20 finishes on superspeedways, Michael Waltrip achieved three of those efforts with eighth in last year’s Daytona 500. To date, it’s Robinson’s best Cup finish.
Since 2014, Robinson has also acquired other underfunded teams, including Hillman-Circle Sport LLC and Tommy Baldwin Racing, keeping its team afloat to what it is today.
Outside of Cup, Robinson also operates a Camping World Truck Series team and completed its first full-time effort driven by Wendell Chavous. In 21 starts, Chavous’ best finish was 14th at Las Vegas. Chavous also led two laps at Talladega before being caught up in a late race crash, finishing 24th.
Like his full-time Cup car, Robinson has yet to announce its Truck Series lineup for 2018.
Compared to other race teams who came and went, Robinson has showcased longevity as a NASCAR owner and is finally getting mainstream recognition.
With Danica’s one-race deal, it could attract future sponsorships and promising equipment for Robinson. The question will be can she stay out of trouble and away from media scrutiny?
With the recent results and luck at superspeedways, Premium Motorsports has shown why both Daytona and Talladega have become the ultimate equalizer for underfunded teams this decade. For Danica, it’ll be a positive ending to an otherwise lackluster career. As for Robinson, it’s a moment he’s been waiting for since entering his first NASCAR event almost 18 years ago.