JRM’s No. 8 Team Puts Together Great Season with a Cast of Thousands

Ron Lemasters | 11/26/2019

News Taylor Moyer XFINITY Series

Despite a rookie crew chief and a cast of characters behind the wheel with diverse experience, JRM's No. 8 Chevy found a ton of success in 2019.

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Nov. 26, 2019) – On Jan. 2, 2019, Taylor Moyer reported to JR Motorsports’ campus as the leader of the multi-driver No. 8 team for the two-time defending series champions. The 31-year-old Vermont native was tasked with building a cohesive unit out of a multitude of moving parts for his rookie season as a crew chief, including nine different drivers for 33 races.

When the counting was done following the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 16, the results showed that his first foray turned out quite well. In those 33 races, the No. 8 team notched seven top-five and 23 top-10 finishes, qualified for the playoffs in the owner category and finished 2019 as the top-ranked multi-driver team in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.

“Our season, overall, was pretty good,” Moyer said of the campaign just passed. “I don’t know what the expectation was, but I certainly made some mistakes but kept them to a minimum, with no critical mistakes. We ended up with seven top-five and 23 top-10 finishes with nine different drivers, a couple of whom were rookies in the series and a couple who were veterans.

“We had a couple of West Coasters, a couple of East Coasters, two Smiths, two broadcasters...we had weight ranges from 200 pounds to 120 pounds...just the logistics of getting the cars to the track and getting the interiors switched out was pretty smooth, considering. I’m really proud of everyone on the No. 8 team, they did a hell of a job all season.”

Of those nine drivers, five accounted for the top-five results, with the best a runner-up finish by Ryan Truex in his first start at ISM Raceway in March. Veteran Jeb Burton and rookie Zane Smith notched two top fives each while team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Cup Series driver Ryan Preece accounted for the other two.

Smith (7) and Burton (6) logged the most top 10s among the driver group, with Truex and Preece posting four top 10s apiece. The other two went to Earnhardt Jr. and Chase Elliott, who ran in the season opener at Daytona. Sheldon Creed, Brett Moffitt and Regan Smith completed the driver lineup for Moyer’s first season.

That’s a successful debut in a tough series with a team still getting its feet wet in terms of competition.

That said, Moyer had some thoughts on how it all went.

“There were certainly some races this season where I wish we had finished better,” he said. “We had some component failures, had an engine let go and some electrical issues, but we finished the season as the top multi-driver car in owner’s points. We made the playoffs in owner’s points and that’s without a Cup regular driving the car. I felt like overall it was pretty good.”

It was, and to understand just what the season entailed, you need more information.

“It took me a little while to learn the idiosyncrasies of all these different guys, and once we figured that out we could head to the track with a game plan that fit the style of driver they were, what they liked and didn’t like and what feedback worked for them and didn’t work for them.” Moyer said. “All the constants on my team from road crew to spotter to PR person to truck driver, everybody was spot-on and did a great job. JR Motorsports made it really easy.”

What wasn’t easy was making sure all the drivers fit, so to speak. Each driver required a different set-up, from seat forms to belts and preferences in padding, locations, pedals, etc. That put a lot of pressure on the JRM shop personnel, Moyer said. “We went in with a good interior plan, as far as swapping out (seats, belts, etc.),” Moyer recounted. “Mike Hoffman, the interior guy at the shop, has to get a ton of credit. He was pretty much a full-time No. 8 car employee.”

Going into a 33-race season with nine different drivers and a new-ish team unit was a huge undertaking, Moyer said, and despite all that, it turned out well.

“I think it was successful,” Moyer judged. “There are definitely some races I want to get back. The second Richmond race, with Zane Smith, that car was probably the fastest car we brought to the track. Even the 20 car (Championship 4 driver Christopher Bell) couldn’t compete with us on the long run in practice. We had a failure, but came back to finish eighth.

“We were always good at salvaging the situation, even at Homestead (with Burton), going a lap down, popping a tire, getting a new set of tires on, and we came back to finish ninth. We had some rookie stuff. Poor Zane in his first Vegas race, we played the pit strategy right and got taken out on the last corner passing for sixth. We had a good shot at winning at Pocono (with Preece) if the caution hadn’t come back out. We were the only car in the top 10 on new tires and gained four positions in one corner and probably would have gained some more.”

Moyer came to JRM after spending time as a race engineer at Hendrick Motorsports in the Cup Series, and some of the limitations that NXS competition places on crew chiefs were a bit hard to get used to, he said.

“The series is challenging in that you don’t have that many sets of tires to practice on or to use in the race, so you can’t afford to make an adjustment that goes the wrong way,” he said. “You can’t afford to lose track position. The tire this year was a lot harder than the year before, and like it or not, track position became everything. We were strongest on short tracks and have some work to do on intermediates. Speedways, you’re kind of a victim of circumstance. I thought we always brought fast cars to the speedways, but at Daytona we got caught up in wrecks. That’s racing and the nature of the beast.”

As for 2020, Moyer is planning for a season that will feature a third of the driver lineup he had this season (Daniel Hemric for 21 races, Burton for 11 and Earnhardt Jr. for one). He’ll have some more time—pending possible rules adjustments--to fine-tune rather than get things started.

“We’re already getting organized, getting parts blasted,” he said. “This team was assembled Jan. 2 of this year, that’s when I was hired. After that we grabbed a couple of guys who wanted to do it from the shop, hired some guys for the other positions and I feel a lot more prepared going into 2020. I’ve already spent some time talking to Daniel (Hemric), and will spend some more when he gets back from vacation. Obviously, Jeb (Burton) and Dale and myself already have a good relationship, I think we learned a lot.”

Having a notebook for the tracks he’ll see in 2020 is a nice plus, too.

“For most of these tracks, it will be the first time I go there with a notebook because I’ve been there,” Moyer said. “We definitely saw speed and improvements on track this season when I got to go back to the same track with the same driver and the same tires. The only ones I think of are Dover and Richmond. Both of those were pretty good. At Dover, everybody got burned by a lapped car making a green-flag stop and spinning out and trapping a ton of us a lap down.

“Every time we went back to one of those tracks we got faster and faster and built off our notebook, which was good. It was an absolute pleasure to work with all the drivers I got to work with this year. I think everybody is super-talented in their own right. Some of them are better at certain types of tracks, but everybody has something to bring to the table.”  

XFINITY Series Schedule

XFINITY Series Standings

After Ford EcoBoost 300

Homestead-Miami Speedway | 11/16/2019
RankDriverPointsBehind
1Tyler Reddick (P)40400
2Cole Custer (P)4035-5
3Christopher Bell (P)4032-8
4Justin Allgaier (P)4023-17
5Chase Briscoe #2302-1738
6Austin Cindric2294-1746
7John Hunter Nemechek #2253-1787
8Noah Gragson #2246-1794
9Michael Annett2239-1801