Joe Gibbs Racing announced today that James Small has been promoted from lead engineer to crew chief of the No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota Camry.
A native of Melbourne, Australia, Small is no stranger to teaming with Martin Truex Jr. as the pair have worked together in some capacity for the past three seasons dating back to their time at Furniture Row Racing. Last season, Small served as the lead engineer for the No. 19 team that won a series-best seven races and claimed 15 top-five finishes and 24 top-10s on the way to a runner-up result in the NASCAR Cup Series standings.
“This is an incredible opportunity,” Small said. “Having the confidence of Coach, Martin and everyone at JGR means a lot to me. I moved to the United States six years ago to work in NASCAR and I wanted to work my way up to become a crew chief. I’m ready for this and I am excited about working with Martin and the foundation we have in place on the 19 team with the group of guys we have.”
While this will be the 36-year-old Australian’s first full-time crew chief role, he has experience atop the pit box when he filled in for two races working with Erik Jones in 2017 with Furniture Row Racing. In those two races, Small guided the then-rookie Jones to a 10th-place finish at Watkins Glen International and a third-place result at Michigan International Speedway.
“I know James well and feel very comfortable with him,” Truex said. “I feel like we approach racing very similar. He and Cole (Pearn) have a lot of similarities. It’s a natural fit and I’m really excited about it. I think he’ll do a great job.”
Before transitioning to Joe Gibbs Racing at the start of the 2019 season, Small spent the previous two years at Furniture Row Racing where he was the No. 77 team’s lead engineer in 2017 and eventually shifted to Truex’s team in 2018. Prior to that, Small spent eight years working in Australia in the V8 Supercars Championship before moving to the United States and an engineering role at Richard Childress Racing from 2014-2016.
Additionally, Jeff Curtis has joined Joe Gibbs Racing as lead engineer for the No. 19 team. He previously worked with Truex at Furniture Row Racing, including the team’s 2017 championship season.
Car chief Blake Harris will return to the No. 19 team in the same capacity for the 2020 season.
The move was to keep Truex comfortable. Small, gives Truex a similar comfort than what Cole Pearn did. Truex, had his best years with Pearn in winning 24 of his 26 races with him. Small, was with Truex at FRR and in their transition to JGR, so that faith and trust is still there.