NASCAR: JR Motorsports jumping to the Cup Series?

Josh Berry, JR Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Josh Berry, JR Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images) /

Could Dale Earnhardt Jr. look to take JR Motorsports to the NASCAR Cup Series after 17 seasons of Xfinity Series competition?

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was more emotional on Sunday afternoon than he has been in several years regarding the outcome of a NASCAR race.

Josh Berry, the 30-year-old grassroots driver from Hendersonville, Tennessee to whom Earnhardt gave a chance behind the wheel of one of his Xfinity Series cars on a part-time deal this season, drove to victory lane at Martinsville Speedway following Friday night’s rain postponement.

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Berry led 95 of the Cook Out 250’s 250 laps around the four-turn, 0.526-mile (0.847-kilometer) oval in Ridgeway, Virginia, including the last 29, to take the checkered flag for the first time in his sixth start of the season, his 13th career Xfinity Series start and his 11th start for JR Motorsports.

The win was JR Motorsports’ second in a row, but it meant a whole lot more to Earnhardt because of who delivered it and how he got there.

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It also led to a further discussion about the future of Berry and JR Motorsports. Earnhardt admitted that he and his sister, JR Motorsports vice president and co-owner Kelly Earnhardt Miller, have had discussions about taking their team to the Cup Series.

JR Motorsports have competed in the Xfinity Series for 17 seasons, but with the Generation 7 car set to be introduced to the Cup Series next season, that will cut costs from what it takes to get into the series right now.

There would still be a number of challenges for the team to take that step, specifically finding a way to purchase one of the 36 charters. Here is what Earnhardt had to say about the matter, according to Racinboys Broadcasting Network.

"“With the new car coming in, me and my sister have certainly talked a little bit about whether that presents an opportunity for Jr Motorsport to go into the Cup Series. I think the charter makes it a big challenge for us. That’s a huge financial challenge for anybody trying to get involved in the Cup Series.“We’re not deep into conversation about it. But when the new car comes out, I think you have to ask yourself, ‘Is this a moment we need to consider—if we would ever get into Cup—is this the time to look at what we’re doing and see if that makes sense. Me and my sister have just had some short, personal conversations about it that haven’t really developed into anything strong. But I think it would be irresponsible for us not to at least look at what getting into Cup—with the big turn over of equipment, new race car—what that means?“Getting into that series is so hard. The money that you’re going to need that’s required to race there and be competitive more than doubles. We don’t have a partner right now who is willing to make a commitment like that so that keeps the conversations pretty short between me and Kelley. But I think you have to ask yourself—with this new car coming along, it would be irresponsible not to I think.”"

He added that Berry would be a driver who he would love to build around if JR Motorsports were to venture into the Cup level, but at this point, the goal on that front is just to get the sport’s newest first-time winner into the Xfinity Series on a full-time basis.

"“Josh would absolutely be a driver that I would look at if we were going to build a Cup program. But I’m just trying to get us into a full-time Xfinity program with Josh. I’m just trying to get him into the Xfinity Series program, where he can continue to prove himself. And if the Cup Series is in our future, maybe Josh is the driver that helps make that happen.“But that’s thinking pretty big all around. We used to say, ‘We were never going into the Cup Series. NEVER!’ We love where we’re at in the Xfinity Series. It’s a great series to have a lot of fun in when you have days like today in the Xfinity Series—and we have a great model for that. But the new car forced us to sit down and have a conversation about whether we were missing an opportunity to go to the Cup Series in the future.”"

JR Motorsports’ three full-time drivers are Michael Annett, Justin Allgaier and Noah Gragson. Sam Mayer is set to join them once he turns 18 in late June.

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Will JR Motorsports make the jump to the Cup Series in the future, or will they continue fielding entries solely in the Xfinity Series?