Season In Review: No. 8 Team Resilient in Hard-Fought 2020 Campaign

Mike Campbell | JR Motorsports | 11/24/2020

Alsco Dale Earnhardt Jr. Daniel Hemric Hellmann's Jeb Burton LS Tractor NASCAR Xfinity News OnDeck Poppy Bank Rocky Boots South Point State Water Heaters Taylor Moyer

With drivers Jeb Burton, Daniel Hemric and JR Motorsports team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr., the No. 8 team overcame challenges from all sides to race into the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs and contend for a chance at the owner championship.

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Nov. 24, 2020) – The legendary cinematic figure Rocky Balboa once said that “it ain’t about how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward.” If there was ever a mantra for the 2020 season that crew chief Taylor Moyer and the No. 8 team endured, it would be that. With drivers Jeb Burton, Daniel Hemric and JR Motorsports team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr., the No. 8 team overcame challenges from all sides to race into the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs with a chance at the owner championship, ultimately ending the season ninth in the final rundown.

From the beaches of Daytona to the desert sands of Arizona, drivers Burton, Hemric and Earnhardt Jr. tallied a total of 11 top fives, besting the No. 8 team’s 2019 total by four. In addition, the JRM trio scored 19 top-10s and earned a best finish of second on three separate occasions, en route to advancing to the Round of 8 in the NXS owner’s playoff bracket.

“This season was definitely one of feast or famine,” said Moyer. “We were really strong when we were able to avoid the bad luck, and I feel like that shows when you look at our numbers. We had more top-five finishes this season compared to last and our speed was solid across all the different types of tracks this year.

“I’m really proud of our effort on this No. 8 team and this group’s will to fight all season long. We had a ton of variables thrown our way but this group held together and never gave up.”

Kicking off the 2020 season with Burton at Daytona International Speedway, the driver of the LS Tractor Chevrolet lined up for the 120-lap event from the fourth position and paced the field for a career-high 26 laps throughout the course of the event. However, that strong run came to an unfortunate conclusion as Burton was collected in a multi-car incident heading down the backstretch on lap 114, relegating the Halifax, Va. native to a 23rd-place finish.

Following Burton, Hemric took over the reins of the No. 8 Chevrolet for the ensuing seven races, beginning with the West Coast swing and Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Overall, the west wasn’t the kindest to the No. 8 team, as Hemric was involved in incidents at both Las Vegas and Phoenix Raceway. But a solid seventh at Fontana showed the speed Hemric had on the intermediate tracks.

Then, as the series returned to the East Coast, the season came to an abrupt halt as the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the sports world for two months. When racing made its triumphant return at Darlington Raceway in May, Hemric fought hard inside the top 10, coming away with a sixth-place finish.

Hemric followed up the run at Darlington with a second-place finish at Charlotte Motor Speedway, a sixth at Bristol Motor Speedway and a fourth at Atlanta Motor Speedway before giving up the driver’s seat to JRM team owner Earnhardt Jr. for the first leg of a Homestead-Miami weekend doubleheader.

Making his lone start of the 2020 season behind the wheel of the No. 8 Hellmann’s Chevrolet, Earnhardt Jr. ran inside the top five throughout the 167-lap event, leading four laps before taking the checkered flag in the fifth position. The top-five result was the 70th of Earnhardt Jr.’s NXS career.

Hemric returned to the No. 8 the following afternoon and was in position to fight for the win following a late-race restart before contact heading down the back straightaway sent the driver of the Poppy Bank Chevrolet hard into the inside retaining wall. The subsequent damage ended Hemric’s day shy of the checkers and led to a 31st-place finish.

Over the next four races, both Hemric and Burton shared the duties of the No. 8 Chevrolet. Burton was up first, running up front and leading eight laps, including the white-flag lap at Talladega Superspeedway before coming across the finish line in the third position. The following weekend at Pocono Raceway, Hemric was battling inside the top five before a multi-car incident at the exit of Turn 1 on lap 52 badly damaged his OnDeck Capital Chevrolet, resulting in a 28th-place finish. Burton made his return for two consecutive races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course and Kentucky Speedway, but mechanical issues at Indy and a lap-1 incident at Kentucky relegated Burton to 31st - and 34th-place finishes, respectively.

Hemric was back behind the wheel of the No. 8 for the second-half of the Kentucky doubleheader, coming home in the ninth position, with Burton returning for Texas Motor Speedway’s first race of the year. Starting second, Burton ran inside the top 10 throughout the day, taking the checkered flag in sixth with the State Water Heaters Chevrolet.

Following Texas, it was back to Hemric for three-consecutive races at Kansas Speedway, Road America and the inaugural event at the Road Course at Daytona. Following a solid seventh-place run at Kansas, Hemric looked to continue the momentum into the two road-course events. However, a mechanical issue at Road America and an incident on the final lap of Stage One on the Road Course at Daytona relegated Hemric to finishes of 35th and 37th, respectively.

Burton was back once again following Daytona for the opening race of the Dover International Speedway doubleheader, where the driver of the State Water Heaters Chevrolet marched through the field from his 27th-place starting position to take the checkered flag in seventh. Hemric jumped back in the following day, taking the green flag from the rear of the field and backing up the strong run by Burton to cross the finish line for the final time in the fifth position.

The NXS made its return to Daytona once again following Dover. Hemric worked well with his JRM teammates throughout the early portion of the event, but a multi-car incident on lap 39 badly damaged his Poppy Bank Chevrolet. Despite the damage, Hemric soldiered on to record a 24th-place finish. From there, the series turned back the clocks for throwback weekend in Darlington. This marked a special weekend for the entire No. 8 group as the team paid tribute to the life and legacy of John Andretti and the #CheckIt4Andretti campaign. In a scheme harkening back to Andretti’s 1995 and 1996 NASCAR Cup Series seasons, Hemric looked to have another strong run at the hallowed “Lady in Black.” However, those hopes were dashed on the second lap. As the field was exiting Turn 2, Hemric was hit by another car on the inside lane, sending the JRM driver hard into the inside retaining wall and badly damaging the nose of the Poppy Bank Camaro. With the damage deemed too severe to continue, Hemric was relegated to a 37th-place finish.

Looking to rebound from Darlington, the No. 8 team headed to Richmond Raceway for the final doubleheader weekend of the season with Burton behind the wheel. Despite mechanical issues leading to a 32nd-place finish in the opening race, Burton charged forward the following day, leading for 12 laps and scoring a career-best second-place finish. The strong runner-up result also put the No. 8 team into a comfortable playoff position heading into the final race of the regular season the following week at Bristol.

Taking the green flag from seventh at “Thunder Valley,” Burton held steady, running inside the top 10 throughout the evening to take the checkered flag in ninth and secure the No. 8 team’s position in the quest for the owner championship in the NXS Playoffs.

Hemric made his return to the No. 8 for the opening Round of 12 in the playoffs, scoring three consecutive top-fives at Las Vegas, Talladega and in the torrential downpour at the Roval at Charlotte. Hemric continued his consistency into the Round of 8, as the Kannapolis, N.C. native came home in the second position at Kansas while again carrying the colors of the Andretti tribute scheme.

Following the run at Kansas, the reins were turned back over to Burton for the final two races in the Round of 8 at Texas and at Burton’s home track of Martinsville Speedway. A flat right-rear tire while racing inside the top 10 ended Burton’s day early at Texas, resulting in a 30th-place finish and making Martinsville a must-win situation for the No. 8 team and their drive for the owner championship. Taking the green flag for the penultimate event in eighth, Burton rallied back from early damage to score a hard-fought fourth-place finish. Overall, in his 18 starts for JRM, Burton tallied five top fives and 12 top 10s.

Despite the strong top five in Martinsville, the No. 8 team was eliminated from playoff contention heading into the final event of the season at Phoenix. Although no longer vying for the owner title, the No. 8 team looked to continue the positive momentum through the end of the season with Hemric back behind the wheel one final time. Lining up in 18th, Hemric was knocking on the door of joining the top 10 before a mechanical issue forced the driver of the Poppy Bank Chevrolet to the garage. Returning to the track following the repairs off the lead lap, Hemric pressed forward to take the final checkered flag of the season in the 25th position. Overall, in 2020, Hemric recorded seven top fives and 12 top 10s in 21 starts in the No. 8 Chevrolet.

“Looking back on the season as a whole, I feel like we definitely showed our potential as a group and that we were able to continuously make improvements throughout the course of the year,” added Moyer. “Both Daniel and Jeb did a great job for us this season and it’s great to see them continue their careers moving forward. Hopefully for us here, we can continue making progress into next year and avoid as much bad luck as we can with Josh (Berry) and Sam (Mayer).”

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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