JR Motorsports announced the addition of Lambert with a press release on Tuesday, January 4. The team confirmed that Lambert will replace Dave Elenz, who left the No. 9 team after the championship race. He will now make his return to the Xfinity Series for the first time since the 2012 season, the same year that he guided Elliott Sadler to four wins and a runner-up finish behind Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
“I can’t wait to start working with Luke and to see what his experience and knowledge can bring to this No. 9 team,” Gragson said in a statement. “After how close we came to winning the championship last season, there’s a ton of momentum on this No. 9 Bass Pro Shops/TrueTimber/Black Rifle Coffee team, and I think Luke will bring a fresh perspective to what we already have at JR Motorsports.”
Lambert Has Extensive Cup Series Experience
While Lambert only has one season of crew chief experience in the Xfinity Series, he has sat atop the pit box for 332 Cup Series races. Lambert has worked with four drivers and made one trip to Victory Lane.
The veteran crew chief made his Cup Series debut in 2011 with Richard Childress Racing. He joined Jeff Burton for 17 races and then reunited with him for 34 races in 2013, resulting in five top-10 finishes and two top-fives.
Lambert spent five full seasons with Ryan Newman, starting with the runner-up finish in 2014. The two men reached Victory Lane together at Phoenix in 2017 and locked up a total of 60 top-10s and 19 top-fives.
Lambert capped off his time at RCR with Daniel Hemric in 2019. He guided the rookie driver to two top-10 finishes and one top-five, as well as Rookie of the Year honors.
The veteran spent the majority of his Cup Series career with Richard Childress Racing, but he moved over to RFK Racing — then Roush Fenway Racing — ahead of the 2020 season and joined forces with Chris Buescher for 67 total races. Though Lambert reunited with Newman for the final five races of the 2021 season.
Gragson Will Aim for Another Championship 4 Run
Lambert hasn’t returned to Victory Lane since the 2017 season, but he will pair with an Xfinity Series driver that finished the 2021 campaign third in the championship standings after three wins.
Gragson’s 2021 campaign featured some surprising crashes and mechanical issues that resulted in eight DNFs. He entered the year with two career wins from the 2020 season, but he went winless for the first 23 races. However, Gragson turned a corner at the end of the regular season and won two consecutive races to reach the playoffs. He added a third at Martinsville that secured a spot in the championship four.
Gragson will enter the year with big expectations after the best points finish of his Xfinity Series career. Meeting or surpassing his 2021 campaign will not be a simple task, but he will partner with Lambert while pursuing this goal.
“I’m really excited to have the opportunity with JR Motorsports,” Lambert said in a statement. “I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of really good opportunities and experiences in the sport, and looking at JR Motorsports and what I think we are capable of accomplishing, it felt like a really good fit. That’s what was exciting for me, because I feel like we have the opportunity to be really competitive and make a run at the NASCAR Xfinity Series title. That’s what I wanted to be part of here.”