Dale Earnhardt Jr.: 'Can't wait ... for any of our four guys to get a (Cup Series) call'

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·4 min read
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: 'Can't wait ... for any of our four guys to get a (Cup Series) call'
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LOUDON, N.H. — Things have never been better at JR Motorsports.

The powerhouse Xfinity Series team is fresh off Justin Allgaier’s strong victory Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, the Chevrolet-backed organization’s sixth victory since late April and series-best seventh on the season. All four teams are communicating data intimately, all four are in the championship hunt inside the points standings’ top eight, and if you added any more proverbial cylinders to the mix, they’d probably be clicking on all those, too.

The blend of people from those turning wrenches on the shop floor to those turning left and right on Saturdays is just working, and it has been a long time in the making for the Dale Earnhardt Jr.-Kelley Earnhardt Miller joint operation.

“Trying to find the right way to fit those pieces together is always a fun challenge,” Earnhardt said after Allgaier’s win, the No. 7 driver’s third of the season. “And I think our lineup of drivers is as strong as it has ever been. I think our lineup of crew chiefs are working better together than they ever have. We’ve had some great crew chiefs like Dave Elenz and other people in our organization that were tough to see go but you know, when they work together, they can be stronger as a group. And so there’s a lot of great information going from car to car and we’ve got great engines. Really, really great engines from Hendrick. Our support from Hendrick when it comes to resources, engineering and sim and all those things, that river’s never flowed as smooth and as current as it does now. And so everything’s working well.”

MORE: Allgaier claims ‘Magic Mile’ | Full race results

Then again, are they perhaps working too well?

We’re at the point of the season where Cup Series rides of all sorts are starting to become available as drivers and teams play musical chairs with eyes cautiously looking ahead to the 2023 and 2024 seasons while keeping a keen focus on this year’s impending NASCAR Playoffs.

Given how dominant JR Motorsports is at the moment and the variety of talent the four-car team boasts, it’s not unreasonable to think one — or more — of them could be pilfered up to Cup by a team looking to capture lightning in a bottle with a driver on the rise. And JRM offers an enticing menu of options for other teams to potentially take a look at, from the veteran guile of 30-somethings Allgaier and Josh Berry, who look like they could hop into a Cup car tomorrow and make it competitive, to young, aggressive upstarts Noah Gragson and Sam Mayer, who ranked fifth and ninth, respectively, among our 23-and-under prospect rankings from this year’s preseason.

MORE: Power Rankings: Top 10 young prospects

With a few Silly Season shakeups this past week alone — Tyler Reddick and Ty Dillon leaving their respective rides — there are rumblings Gragson could be among the favorites to land one of those opportunities.

Not only can this be considered a good problem to have, according to Earnhardt, it’s actually a situation and environment Junior himself has cultivated — to make JRM a stepping stone to Sundays, even if it means part of the family has to move on.

“The one thing I’ll say is that I can’t wait for the phone to ring for any of our four guys to get a call. I want to know about it as soon as it happens, and I can’t wait to help them make the decision of whether that’s a smart move for them or not,” the Hall of Famer said. “That was such a great day (when Aric Almirola called to tell me he was leaving to drive the No. 43 full-time). I was standing in the house, standing in the lobby or the foyer of my house, when Aric Almirola called me and he said I got some tough news. He said, ‘Richard Petty has called me to see if … ‘ and I was like, ‘You gotta go.’ I didn’t even let him finish the sentence. I was like, ‘That’s it. That’s what we do this for.’ Like, this is your chance, you know? And I was so happy. You know, because that’s like a win. That’s like a trophy. That’s like what happened today to get a call. It’s kind of like getting pulled up from the minors. And it could happen any minute right in the middle of the year.

“And so yeah, I’m excited anytime that happens and the potential for Noah had that opportunity. I’m waiting. I’m waiting to hear that phone ring any second for him for any of our guys.”

Until that happens, the gregarious team owner is content to just keep winning races, celebrating in Victory Lane with his racing family and focusing on the next race ahead from now through Phoenix while enjoying the ride.

“We’re taking advantage of it and enjoying it for sure,” Earnhardt said. “We go home and have beer toasts and everybody, the morale in the shop, I don’t think could be better.”