Championship Drive: No. 8 JR Motorsports Team

Ron Lemasters | 2/7/2019

2019 News XFINITY Series

The No. 8 team will feature a variety of drivers for the 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series season as well as a rookie crew chief in Taylor Moyer.

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Feb. 7, 2019) – The No. 8 JR Motorsports Chevrolet, to be driven by multiple drivers for the 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series season, represents a change in more than number. The team will feature Dale Earnhardt Jr. to go along with the iconic number it will wear.

It also has a new crew chief in 31-year-old Taylor Moyer, a Vermont native who is the latest addition to the pipeline of talent flowing from Hendrick Motorsports in Concord to the JRM campus in Mooresville. Moyer, who grew up in the Northeast racing scene on both pavement and dirt, earned one win, nine top-five and 33 top-10 finishes as a NASCAR Cup Series race engineer for drivers Kasey Kahne and William Byron.

Moyer, a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, has run the gamut of positions on a race team, starting out as a 19-year-old tire changer at HMS and advancing through the parts department and chassis and body shops before climbing the pit box as a race engineer. It is his first season as a crew chief at any level, and he’s looking forward to getting it started.

NEW BLOOD: The No. 8 team is the newest among JRM’s four squads, though it is loaded with veterans. Danny Earnhardt Jr., who worked with Elliott Sadler throughout his tenure at JRM, assumes the role of car chief after spending several seasons in a variety of mechanical roles. Gregg Buchanan returns as the underneath mechanic and Jeffrey Schmidt is at the front-end spot. Josh Graham transitions from the Pilot Flying J team to be the race engineer for Moyer, and new arrival Jack Rickelmann is the tire specialist.

“I certainly believe in the power of people,” Moyer said. “Some of my mentors are Steve Letarte and Mr. Hendrick, and I’ve always really listened to them about empowering people and using the resources around you. These (his team) are new people to me. I got to hire some but some were already here, and I’ve been so happy with the team I have. I get along great with everyone personality-wise and I think they react well to the way I would like to manage them, which is to put a lot of responsibility on their shoulders.”

Having never been a crew chief other than at the local level, Moyer takes some instruction from his time at Hendrick to fulfill his new role.

“Luckily, in my last year with HMS I had a great mentor and friend in Darien Grubb, who really let me work hard in developing the skills I wanted to develop,” Moyer said. “It was always my goal to be a crew chief, so in that it was never my job to give directions to everyone, I was able to kind of practice on the side. I had a really good mentor to look at and lean on with the same management style to be a great example if I ever got the shot.

“This year, I got the shot, and I hope I can make the best of it.”

DRIVER SHUFFLE: Moyer will start his career as an NXS crew chief at Daytona and he has drivers with experience to help him along the way in Ryan Truex, Ryan Preece and Jeb Burton. Zane Smith, the 19-year-old Drivers Edge Development racer, is making his series debut in the third race of the season at Las Vegas. Of course, team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. will also be in the seat during Moyer’s maiden season.

That’s a lot to handle for a first-time crew chief in any series, but Moyer is unfazed.

“I think it (the cast of drivers) actually fits well for me, because I’ve always used the expression that I’m better when I’m busy,” Moyer said with a laugh. “It forces me to kind of compartmentalize and be really organized. When we had William (Byron, JRM’s 2017 NXS champion driver) coming in (at HMS) last year, I kind of got this cool special role of, ‘Here’s a rookie who really doesn’t know how to race these cars and we need to go over every little detail.’

“I’ve been going through everything in kind of the same detail, because I’ve got everything from Dale to Zane, a 19-year-old. I’m going to treat everyone the same; if I say something they already know, that’s fine, but at least I’ve said it. A lot of times it’s the details that separate the first-place car from the fifth-place car. They may be crazy-great drivers, but they can shoot themselves in the foot because the switch layout is different or there are different brake bias adjusters than they’re used to.”

That attention to detail is two-fold, Moyer said.

“I’ve just been going through the list so one, I can understand this car inside and out and also so it helps me to understand when I go to explain it to other people. I’m certainly ready for the challenge. It’s going to be fun. I still have to count on my fingers to make sure I hit everybody when people ask me who all the drivers are. I have all types of personalities (as drivers) and I’m a people person and I enjoy people, so it’s going to be a great challenge. Since a lot of the drivers are newer and this is their shot, we can kind of do it together, what works best for both of us.”

FAMILIAR FACES: Coming to JRM is sort of like a reunion for Moyer, too. He’s worked with a lot of people who are now at JRM while at HMS and that provides some comfort. That number includes the three other crew chiefs in the building.

“As far as having Dave (Elenz), Jason (Burdett) and Travis (Mack), it’s been great because I worked with all of them in some capacity at HMS,” Moyer said. “I was a junior engineer for Dave once upon a time when he was at HMS, I was a data acquisition guy for Jason when he was the car chief on the No. 88 with Stevie (Letarte) and Travis and I have always worked around each other, but never on the same team. He was over here when I got to that side and then swapped around a bit.

“That personal connection is great, and this is the absolute best situation I could fall into. I know if I have a question I can walk in any of those offices and ask and nobody’s going to lead me down the wrong road or not divulge information.”

The more intimate nature of life at JR Motorsports appeals to Moyer as well.

“I love the smaller team here,” he said. “There’s a very direct connection with the people here. I’m not in meetings all day. I can go out on the shop floor, see people, and if you want something done, it gets done really quickly.”

LOFTY GOALS: Every crew chief wants to win races and championship, whether he or she has been at it for years or it’s the first season on top of the box. Moyer set his first-year goals in that same vein.

“My goal is to win races, obviously, and I would like to win at least one race with every driver,” Moyer said. “There’s a good number. I feel like I owe it to those guys. “Everyone is going to get the same amount of work out of me no matter what. My goal is to always, every week, perform at least as well as the other cars if not better.”

From race engineer to crew chief is a well-traveled path in the sport these days. Moyer gets his first shot as a crew chief with a perennial Xfinity Series title challenger, one that has sent crew chiefs like Greg Ives and Kevin Meendering back to the top series in recent seasons. He’ll take a new team with several drivers to the track on a weekly basis and start his own path atop the box.

That journey begins next weekend in Daytona.

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XFINITY Series Schedule

  • April 27 01:00 PM ET
    MoneyLion 300Talladega Superspeedway
  • May 4 01:30 PM ET
    Allied Steel Buildings 200Dover International Speedway
  • May 25 01:00 PM ET
    Alsco 300 at CharlotteCharlotte Motor Speedway
  • June 1 01:00 PM ET
    Pocono Green 250Pocono Raceway
  • June 8 01:30 PM ET
    LTi Printing 250Michigan International Speedway

XFINITY Series Standings

After ToyotaCare 250

Richmond Raceway | 4/12/2019
RankDriverPointsBehind
1Tyler Reddick3620
2Christopher Bell338-24
3Cole Custer333-29
4Austin Cindric299-63
5Justin Allgaier275-87
6John Hunter Nemechek #263-99
7Michael Annett262-100
8Chase Briscoe #255-107
10Noah Gragson246-116