JRM Team Members Weigh In; What Would You Do If You Ran NASCAR...for a Day?

Ron Lemasters | JR Motorsports | 1/30/2018

Justin Allgaier News XFINITY Series

What would you do if you ran NASCAR for a day? JRMracing.com took an internal assessment of company executives and competition staff and now we reveal their answers.

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Jan. 30, 2018) – What would you do if you ran NASCAR for a day?

That’s kind of a loaded question, given that JR Motorsports is headlong into the run-up to the 2018 NASCAR Xfinity Series season, but that is when this age-old question usually makes the rounds.

Do you change a lot of things, remake the sport in your own vision? Or, do you tweak the foundational aspects and try to fix as much as you think necessary? Would you go along the path as laid out or blaze a new one?

As you might imagine, those commenting on the fictitious 24-hour transfer of power considered carefully the choices they made in responding (the four full-time JRM entries in the NXS do need to pass tech inspection on a weekly basis and the governing body reserves the power to make that difficult!). The responses were well-thought-out, given the rigors of a 33-race season at 24 tracks over 10 months, the current state of the sport’s economy and the human toll such an endeavor casts on the equipment, the people, and their families.

The responses centered on a few common changes, such as cutting the number of races in a season, the mix of tracks on the schedule and the theory behind the traveling nature of a national touring series.

Every season, there is discussion about the mix of tracks involved, how many 1.5-mile or bigger ovals versus how many tracks under a mile in length. JRM General Manager Kelley Earnhardt Miller came down on the side of more short tracks.

“If you add more short tracks to the schedule, more diversity among the different types of tracks, I think that makes the racing more interesting and appealing,” she said.

As an executive herself, charged with the welfare of more than 140 employees, Earnhardt Miller also pointed out that leadership is key to any business or sport. “I like the idea of the face of the sport, from an executive standpoint, being an engaged figure at the track as well,” she said.

One aspect that got serious attention was the manner in which race tracks—and their markets—are awarded race dates.

If he were in charge, JRM’s VP of Licensing and Marketing Joe Mattes would start there.

“I think when NASCAR gives out race dates to certain tracks, I think the community—the politicians, the whole community—has to have a set of guidelines,” he said. “That includes the following to get a race: working with the local industry and the hotels, with no minimums and fair pricing. For us as a race team, and also from the consumers and the fan base, having two-night, three-night minimums is crazy.”

The makeup of the race weekend would benefit, Mattes said, from an all-hands effort to involve the community, particularly the youth market.

“I would also have youth initiatives where I would work with the Little Leagues, the Girl Scouts, the Boy Scouts, the church organizations,” he said. “They (the tracks) would, proactively as part of that race-date package, commit to getting them involved to where the youth could come out and hang out at the track with incentives, very good incentives.

“There has to be a sense of responsibility of getting that race date over the entire industry, because economically, the communities benefit, the hotels, the restaurants and all that, certainly from a tax standpoint. The municipalities and the cities are doing it, and that has to come with some kind of responsibility to give back.

“We should demand more of the people who get the race dates.”

The economics of the sport are changing right along with the rest of the sports world, and it is that economy that drives a huge portion of what NASCAR teams like JRM do. Making tough decisions about the direction of the sport in the future is going to be the key to success, according to Mattes, a 25-year veteran of the sport.

“I would like to see us race twice at Darlington and twice at Martinsville, for a couple of reasons,” he said. “One, it is good racing, and two, the economics for all the race teams would be easier on the workload and the travel, but I think it would also be better. We start looking at where we are truly, truly racing, and look into what is working and what is not working and make some hard decisions. Leaving out Martinsville and not racing twice at Darlington is one change I would like to see.”

When the U.S. economy cratered following the recession of 2008, it hit NASCAR and its teams particularly hard. Enough time has passed, Mattes said, that the sport as a whole can take a good, hard look at what is ahead and which path should be chosen.

“We have enough history, post-2008, that we can look back at a lot of these decisions so that looking forward, when it comes time to give out race dates again, we can start setting expectations for NASCAR to consider potential places,” he said. “There needs to be a criteria to earn that. Go back and look at the economic impact and let us make a business decision. I think it has to be the community, not just the track. It’s a post-audit, a post review.”

Mike Bumgarner, the race operations manager at JRM, was quite direct about what he would change in his 24-hour term of service as NASCAR boss.

“I would have less races, plain and simple,” he said. “It’d be like Formula One racing, where you put all your eggs in one basket, go to one event per city per year, make it a prestigious deal, and hopefully you’d pack in a lot more people for a one-time event.”

Sounds simple enough, and there is a quick and easy test to confirm or deny his thought.

“Look at (Las) Vegas,” he said. “That’s why they added another race. We’ll see if that holds true, that the second race always fills up or the first race has less or more. When it was a single event, it seemed to always sell out, big crowds. I think you have to go back to 28, 29, 30 races, somewhere in there. Do you need the All-Star race? Do you need the Shootout? Yeah, they’re great races, but it’s a big expense for all these companies. When it’s all said and done, what do you gain? The theory always was that they were kind of a test session, but it’s not so much anymore.”

It would also help the employees whose job it is to produce upwards of 35 race cars, get them to and from the track and work on them while competing, he said.

“I think for the smaller teams, it would help a lot of people get better over time. By the end of the season, when you do 36, 38 races, everybody is ready to just walk away. I think it would keep everybody energized, more enthusiastic about it, whether you’re seeing it on TV or for us as racers, being more excited about when we do get to race.”

Ryan Pemberton, the director of competition at JRM, was thinking he would do much the same in his day at the helm.

“Scheduling, the amount of races, where we race, the types of races...there’s some places you shouldn’t go twice,” he said. “What about [the Xfinity Series] running the road course at Indianapolis at 11 a.m. rain or shine, and running the Cup cars in the afternoon the same day on the oval? You’d be guaranteed at least one race that day. I think some of the tracks we go to twice, the necessity is not there. I think maybe a couple of optional race tracks that we mix up over a certain amount of time would be good. Sometimes just going to a different track once a year and then go to a different place in the same time slot the next year.

“The number of races is tough, and I think that sometimes less is more. We did not take that approach for years and I think it has depleted us pretty good. When I came into the sport, it was 27 races a year.”

Anything that keeps the teams from the 20-week stretch of races they endured through 2017 would be a plus, Pemberton said.

“The way the cars are built, the way the teams are built and the dedication it takes to do it, if you can figure out a way to go three races and a weekend off, I think it would cut a couple of races out and reorganize it, that would help the teams,” he said. “There’s a long stretch in the summer where, if you could get a couple of weekends off in there, it would really help the teams. There’re a lot of things we do well, but a little less would be...better.

“If you could break the season down a little bit, I think it would be good. Anything that’s a little different always adds excitement to it, like running the road course at Indy or a different type of track, running a Wednesday night in the summer, any one of those things makes it interesting, not the same-old, same-old. I would like to see something a little more creative like that.”

Drivers have opinions too, and Justin Allgaier had a very solid take on his “term” in office.

“There’s a couple of things,” he mused. “One of them, for me, is the schedule. I’d like to see kind of a rotating schedule, year to year, especially the playoff races. Shake it up a little bit. The championship race...I love Homestead, it never disappoints and it seems like it always comes down to the very end. On the flip side of it, there are guys and teams that are better suited for tracks like that than others, and some of those teams have been as good or better throughout the course of the season, and it just comes down to one race and that doesn’t necessarily equate to where I think it should.”

Allgaier, as the guy who pushes the throttle inside the No. 7 BRANDT Professional Agriculture Chevrolet, said that the direction of the rules package is a bit too much toward parity and not enough toward innovation.

“One of the things for me is the parity issue that we have,” he said. “We’re going in the direction of trying to make the cars more equal and trying to make the inspection process more standardized. I would like to see what these teams can do creativity-wise, that would be a lot of fun.”

Scheduling is a concern as well for the 31-year-old Illinois driver, though not totally in the same vein as others asked the question.

“I feel like there’s a lot of things that we do really well right now, like the safety aspect of it, the race distances and a lot of the tracks that we go to,” he said. “I would add some short tracks into the mix or at least have a heavier weighted short-track presence because I really enjoy the short-track side of it. Maybe even cut the number of races a little bit. I think it should be somewhere between 28-30 races, that would be the ideal number.”

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XFINITY Series Schedule

XFINITY Series Standings

After Ford EcoBoost 300*

Homestead-Miami Speedway | 11/17/2018
RankDriverPointsBehind
1Tyler Reddick (P)40400
2Cole Custer (P)4035-5
3Daniel Hemric (P)4033-7
4Christopher Bell # (P)4026-14
5Elliott Sadler2255-1785
6Matt Tifft2254-1786
7Justin Allgaier2251-1789
14Michael Annett632-3408