Building on a successful technical alliance, JR Motorsports and GMS Racing jointly announced on Thursday the establishment of Drivers Edge Development, a program presented by Chevrolet aimed at grooming the next generation of racing superstars through a tiered competition pipeline coupled with comprehensive off-track education.
Drivers Edge Development will give participating drivers, all with differing levels of experience, the opportunity to race in five types of developmental series with JRM or GMS-fielded entries while staying aligned with Chevrolet. The program allows the two teams to complement each other by offering participants competition options with JRM’s regional late model program leading into GMS’ NASCAR K&N Pro Series and ARCA entries. The next tier presents potential seat time in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series with GMS. Finally, at the program’s top level, JRM entries await in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
Equally as important as the competition focus, Drivers Edge Development provides added training to enhance participants’ professional growth off the track. Drivers will have access to a host of programs focusing on their physical, mental and technical development. An emphasis will be placed on educating them in areas such as brand building, social media and digital content, media training and fan relations as well as support for partner procurement and retention.
“We have always prided ourselves on being a stepping stone for drivers that want to get to the top level of racing,” said Dale Earnhardt Jr., JRM team owner. “JR Motorsports was designed with that in mind, and now with the help of GMS and Chevrolet, Drivers Edge Development will provide a clear-cut path and more options for drivers to get there.”
Although mainly performance-based, there are no set criteria for selection into the program. Ideally, drivers between the ages of 14 and 21 years old will be considered. Currently, six drivers are enrolled in the Drivers Edge Development program:
· Noah Gragson (NXS driver for JRM)
· John Hunter Nemechek (NXS driver for GMS)
· Zane Smith (NXS driver for JRM in eight races)
· Sheldon Creed (Truck driver for GMS)
· Sam Mayer (Truck/ARCA/K&N driver for GMS and Late Model driver for JRM)
· Adam Lemke (Late Model driver for JRM)
“We couldn’t be more pleased to get this program off the ground,” said Mike Beam, GMS team president. “Between GMS and JRM, I feel our two programs are very complementary of each other and will give Drivers Edge Development participants multiple series options. “We have to give Lorin Ranier some credit, too. He has been working behind the scenes and is a great help in scouting drivers for the program. He is really plugged into the local and regional short-track scene and has already worked with some of the drivers in the program.”
Drivers Edge Development participants will also benefit from the mentoring of veteran racers from both the JRM and GMS stables.
“Drivers Edge Development is going to be critical to the future of the sport and our race team,” said Kelley Earnhardt Miller, JRM general manager. “The fact that you have JRM, GMS and Chevrolet involved in getting this off the ground speaks to that importance.
“We’re emphasizing on-track experience in multiple series while still keeping the drivers under the Chevrolet umbrella. Off track, we’re going to offer these drivers decades of industry knowledge and best practices with the goal of helping them become the best versions of themselves in all aspects of the sport.”
The six drivers enrolled in Drivers Edge Development are joining established and successful operations. The JRM late model teams have delivered 40 wins in the last three seasons and own a total of four championships. GMS Racing has nine wins and a championship with its ARCA program. Its Truck teams have amassed 23 wins along with a championship in 2016. Over 13 years of competition, JRM’s NXS program lays claim to 44 wins and three championships, including consecutive titles in 2017-18.