West Bound and Down: TMC Drivers Complete Western Swing with JR Motorsports

Ron Lemasters | 3/12/2019

News Pilot Flying J TMC West Coast Swing XFINITY Series

Race number two of the West Coast Swing is done thanks to the help of some special assistance from TMC, and the the final leg is already underway.

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (March 12, 2019) – Two legs of the annual West Coast Swing for JR Motorsports are in the books, and the quartet of team transporters are already winging into the setting sun, bound for Auto Club Speedway.

Three hand-picked long-haul drivers from JRM partner TMC Transportation took off early this morning, heading back to their respective home bases, secure in the knowledge that they provided a vital service for the second trip in as many weeks for the North Carolina-based racing team, this one to ISM Raceway in Phoenix, Ariz. Just as the first team of TMC drivers did, each expressed a little bit of awe at the annual trek.

The three drivers are veterans of coast-to-coast work with the nation’s largest employee-owned open deck trucking company, so there was little they didn’t know about the actual job. Where the awe-factor really stepped to the fore was in the details.

Derek Boykin, a 22-year TMC veteran, lives near ISM Raceway, in Buckeye, Ariz., and had never been to the 1-mile desert oval as a fan. “I had never been inside the track at Phoenix...I’ve been fishing right behind it, but never inside, so that was exciting,” Boykin said with a grin. Hauling building materials and steel—“pretty much everything that can go on a flatbed”—the trip itself was nothing new to him, but the actual duties at the track were.

“What really shocked me is the amount of work that goes into everything,” Boykin said of his time behind the wheel of the No. 9 JRM transporter. “Everybody plays a part, and it’s a pivotal part no matter how small it is. It’s pivotal from the bottom man on up. Everything that gets done is very important. It’s the same with me; everything gets done with expertise, and I kind of like that. It’s a sharp outfit.”

One other aspect of what the JRM drivers do drew a comment as well.

“Night driving, all-night driving,” he said with a laugh. “It’s amazing what these guys do. They’re very good, showed me a lot of things I didn’t know.”

That’s saying a lot, teaching a long-time veteran of over-the-road trucking something he doesn’t know.

Rocky Rawls, from Collins, Miss., is another TMC driver who got his first taste of NASCAR Xfinity Series racing at Phoenix with JRM’s No. 8 transporter team.

“I’ve seen this on TV, but I’ve never been to a race,” said Rawls, who has been with TMC for 18 years. “My first race, to have this experience, I don’t know if it will ever be the same. This was unreal.”

One of the things that stood out to Rawls was the amount of attention paid to both the transporters on the road...and pretty much everywhere else.

“Being image-conscious,” Rawls said. “Mr. Annett (Harrold), he demands professionalism everywhere you go, but here...it’s unreal. Everybody looks at you, wearing this logo, and everybody judges every move you make, so you have to watch everything you do.”

That said, the actual experience of driving the bigger, closed-trailer haulers was a bit daunting.

“It was a lot different,” he said. “I’ve pulled a van before so it was a lot like that. The trailer is a lot bigger, so you have to watch yourself a lot more. No forgiveness at all. If you make a mistake, something is going to get bent and you’re going to pay for it.”

The pace of the trip—the drivers switch out during fuel stops after each stint—was an eye-opener, too. “The dynamics are different. You’ve got to get from Point A to Point B in a timely manner, safely.  You utilize every second you have otherwise you pay for it on the other end.”

The pace of the cross-country run is simple: the quicker the trucks get back to Mooresville, the quicker they can unload and take on the cars for this week’s race at Auto Club Speedway, which completes the swing. The regular JRM contingent will make this run un-aided, since they’re coming back to an off-weekend before heading to Texas Motor Speedway on March 28.

Gene Richardson, the third TMC driver chosen by the company to participate in the annual trek, is a longtime fan of NASCAR, having backed both Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his father, Dale Sr., before him. The opportunity to do the run was a bit overwhelming, he said.

“It was very exciting,” he began. “I was a big Dale Sr. fan, and then when Junior came on the scene...it’s kind of hard to pick between the two. Now, to be stepping in and actually driving one of the trucks...it was very humbling. It’s incredible the way it is set up.”

Richardson, who has been with TMC for six of his 25 years behind the wheel, is a cross-country driver as well in the specialized division (agricultural and oversized/overweight), used to make the California run from his home in Ringgold, Ga. “I’ve run with a lot of NASCAR trucks before,” he said with a smile.

Asked what the most surprising part of his trip was, Richardson didn’t hesitate.

“Getting the phone call that asked if I was interested in doing this,” he said. “I had to sit down, literally. It was wild.”

Tony Beres, who has been with TMC for 23 years and is the lead person on the TMC-JRM program, said that was a huge part of the attraction for TMC drivers. It is an honor to be chosen, and the drivers know it.

“What it all comes down to is, when they are selected to do this, it’s an honor, and it’s an honor they’ve earned,” Beres said. “That makes it special to them, and the JR Motorsports truck drivers are just so good to work with. It’s a big thing for TMC to be part of this as well, because the two companies are very compatible in the way they operate and the excellence that both companies are known to have.”

The West Coast gauntlet is over for 2019, but there’s still one thing left to say. It’s the last week for you to be entered into a drawing for a No. 1 Pilot Flying J team prize pack. You can enter by taking a photo of any of our team haulers, post it on Twitter and tag @JRMotorsports in the tweet.

XFINITY Series Schedule

  • September 20 07:30 PM ET
    Go Bowling 250Richmond Raceway
  • September 28 03:30 PM ET
    Drive for the Cure 250Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval
  • October 5 03:00 PM ET
    Use Your Melon Drive Sober 200Dover International Speedway
  • October 19 03:00 PM ET
    Kansas Lottery 300Kansas Speedway
  • November 2 08:30 PM ET
    O'Reilly Auto Parts 300Texas Motor Speedway

XFINITY Series Standings

After Rhino Pro Truck Outfitters 300

Las Vegas Motor Speedway | 9/14/2019
RankDriverPointsBehind
1Christopher Bell20550
2Cole Custer2044-11
3Tyler Reddick2044-11
4Austin Cindric2017-38
5Chase Briscoe #2012-43
6Justin Allgaier2012-43
7Michael Annett2009-46
8Noah Gragson #2005-50