West Bound and Down: JRM Truckers Gear Up for West Coast Swing

Ron Lemasters | 2/26/2019

News Pilot Flying J TMC West Coast Swing XFINITY Series

NASCAR goes west for three straight races starting this weekend and JRM's contingent of haulers and truck drivers are ready to hit the road.

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Feb. 26, 2019) – It is that time of year again.

After races in the relatively close confines of Daytona International Speedway in Florida and Atlanta Motor Speedway in Georgia—a hop, skip and a jump from here—the long-distance haul that is the Western Swing is upon us. Today, the four-truck JR Motorsports contingent began that westward journey to Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the first of three straight long hauls.

Jeff Miles, a 28-year-veteran of NASCAR’s hither-and-yon early seasons, is in charge this season, taking over from Matt Weaver, who was JRM’s transportation chief the past eight seasons, and he’s been there and done this...a lot.

“It’s 14,000 miles or so the next three weeks, so if we’re not driving, we’re doing something team-related to get ready for the next one,” Miles said.

The logistics, while somewhat complicated, are a lot easier than you might think, yet incredibly detailed. Everything—maintenance, adherence to the rules, scheduling—has to be buttoned up before you even start. Otherwise, the delays can wreck the carefully planned timing of a three-week, cross-country marathon.

The skinny is, eight JRM drivers will make the trek westward, two in each truck. Routes are planned—with allowances, Miles said. There’s already a semi-glitch, too. “Right now on I-40 at the Tennessee-North Carolina line, they had a mud slide so the road is closed,” Miles offered. “There is a planned route around and that will take an extra hour or so. You have to allow for mechanical breakdowns, flat tires, road hazards...whatever can happen, you have to plan for it.”

That means the schedule has to be moved up a bit. “We try to leave in enough time to not only get our stuff cleaned when we get there to look proper for our sponsors and our team, but to make sure we’re there on time.”

That’s very important, because if the truck is late, the team is impacted. No truck equals no cars, and no cars means less practice. The rest snowballs from there.

The planning began on the return from last week’s race at Atlanta, a relatively short five-hour run up I-85 back to JRM.

“It’s 36 hours to Las Vegas,” Miles said. “What I try to do and try to convince my guys to do, is fill up on the way back from Atlanta as close as we can to the shop.” That way, the first stop is at least two states away.

When the stop occurs, the trucks change drivers. “We have co-drivers, and you have to swap out four times on the way out to Las Vegas,” Miles reported. “You can run 11 hours, legally, so we try to fuel when we switch so we don’t have to make multiple stops.” Much of the trip is planned so that fuel stops are made at a certain outlet. “We always stop at a Pilot Flying J...well, a Pilot or a Flying J, which is the sponsor on my team and we use them solely for anything at JR Motorsports,” Miles said. He drives the No. 1 transporter pulling the Pilot Flying J Chevrolet driven by Michael Annett.

Through a program with TMC Transportation, the nation’s largest employee-owned open deck trucking company, the JRM truck drivers get a good amount of help in this three-week flurry. After driving out and following the race on Saturday, Miles and primary drivers Chris Burton (No. 9 team), Mark Armstrong (No. 7 team) and Mark Daniells (No. 8 team) will fly back with the team on Saturday night. The co-drivers—John Pounds (No. 1), Steven Kenahan (No. 7), Troy Cole (No. 8) and Daryl Matthews (No. 9)—will drive back...with a little help from TMC.

“For us, we utilize TMC Transportation, four of their top drivers, on the way back from Las Vegas and Phoenix,” Miles said. “The reason we do that is, if we fly the four primary drivers back, we can help get the trucks ready for the next trip.”

Flying instead of driving helps, but it’s exhausting no matter how you do it, Miles said. “We won’t be totally exhausted, even though we won’t get a lot of rest. If you’re frugal and use your hours right, you can get a lot done and get our trucks turned around for the next trip.”

During the trips to Las Vegas and Phoenix, pay attention to social media, too. You’ll be hearing about the TMC drivers and their journeys from the West to the East, and you can even win some pretty cool stuff!

That next trip is to ISM Raceway in Phoenix, another 30-plus-hour haul, exactly a week after Las Vegas.

Adding to the layers of complexity are new federal regulations regarding the number of hours you can spend at the wheel and electronic driver logs to ensure compliance. No matter the new rules, the JRM transportation arm gets the job done.

JRM is one of the only organizations to do the full run both ways, Miles said.

“Last year there were only five teams that did this,” he said. “JR Motorsports had four of them and the other one no longer participates in the series. It’s pretty grueling, but in order to get our cars ready...they’ll use some of the parts off the Las Vegas cars for Fontana, so the team deems it the best way to get our stuff back and forth. That’s what we do.”

After that long, long drive to Las Vegas, Miles and his team are just getting started. There’s a truck to clean, gear to set up and myriad other jobs to be done by the time the teams arrive. Once at the track, the truck driver runs the trailer and takes care of his team—and the other JRM teams all pitch in to help each other, too.

“You’re always representing JRM and your sponsor,” Miles said. “I take care of all the cleaning, maintenance on all the trucks. If you keep track of everything and everything goes well, you don’t have problems.”

After the truck is set up and readied for the teams, Miles and his drivers concentrate on getting the teams fed.

“For the first trip, we try to do hand foods on Friday because that’s what the guys need,” Miles said. “They are thrashing on the cars and we make it as easy as we can so they can grab it on the go. Fruits, hot dogs, hamburgers...whatever that may be. On Saturday, I try to cook a realistic meal. This week, it’ll be rigatoni, sausage meatballs, salad, garlic knots...stuff like that. I’m not a skinny guy, so I need to like it too!”

This week, the trek begins. First Las Vegas, then Phoenix and finally Fontana, Calif. When it’s over, the teams and the truckers will get to take a weekend off from travel, but as with most things, there’s a catch. The next trip is to Texas Motor Speedway on March 30, and that’s another longer run.

West-bound and down, they’ll do it a few more times this season, with follow-up excursions to Las Vegas, Phoenix and Texas plus longer Midwest and East Coast hauls like Iowa Speedway, Pocono Raceway, Watkins Glen International and New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

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XFINITY Series Schedule

XFINITY Series Standings

After Desert Diamond West Valley Casino 200*

Phoenix Raceway | 11/7/2020
RankDriverPointsBehind
1Austin Cindric (P)40400
2Justin Allgaier (P)4032-8
3Justin Haley (P)4029-11
4Chase Briscoe (P)4028-12
5Noah Gragson2306-1734
6Brandon Jones2273-1767
7Ross Chastain2270-1770
8Harrison Burton #2248-1792
9Michael Annett2202-1838