JRM, GMS Racing launch Chevy driver development program
Through an alliance between two of its teams Chevrolet is getting back into the driver development business in NASCAR.
Called, “Drivers Edge Development,” the program will help groom a next generation of drivers, giving them the opportunity to progress through NASCAR’s ranks while remaining aligned with Chevrolet.
Between the two organizations, six different drivers are included in the program’s first class, ranging in competition from Late Models, through the K&N series, ARCA, and the NASCAR Truck and Xfinity series.
The program not only includes on-track competition but also will have a large focus on professional growth off the track in areas such as brand building, social media and digital content, media and fan relations as well as physical, mental and technical development.
“We wanted to give these drivers the opportunity to see what building a brand is all about,” said JR Motorsports co-owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. “There are a lot of things that are important outside of the race car when it comes to building a brand, how to use social media to your advantage, being able to carry a conversation with the media.
“I was real fortunate before I started racing in the Xfinity Series in 1998 to go through a program that helped me a tremendous amount as far as my interviewing skills and carry myself in front of media.
“There are a lot of drivers that come through this sport and we just want to give them the ability and the tools they need outside of the race car as well.”
Currently six drivers are enrolled in the program:
- Noah Gragson, 20, fulltime driver for JRM in the Xfinity Series;
- John Hunter Nemechek, 21, fulltime driver for GMS in Xfinity;
- Zane Smith, 19, part-time driver for JRM in Xfinity;
- Sheldon Creed, 21, fulltime Truck series driver for GMS Racing;
- Sam Mayer, 15, who is doing a combination schedule of Truck, ARCA and K&N for GMS and Late Model races with JRM; and
- Adam Lemke, 16, who will compete in Late Model races 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 complimentary of each other and will give Drivers Edge Development participants multiple series options.”
Pat Suhy, Chevrolet’s NASCAR group manager, said the manufacturer started doing some driver development on its own about 12 years ago, without the involvement of teams.
“We did that successfully, but we didn’t have anywhere to give them a ride basically,” he said. “What this does, it’s kind of a stair-step. It provides access to really good equipment from Late Models up to Xfinity.
“We kind of put a wrapper around it and put some of our technical resources to it, like our driver simulator. Our marketing and communication side will help with off-track training aspect of it as well.”
Earnhardt said the drivers involved are not under any contract with the program and have no commitment to remain with a Chevrolet organization in the future.
“Even if they go somewhere else to race Xfinity cars or with another manufacturer, I still would love to know they felt like what they did with us was important and helpful,” he said.
“The other part of it I like is the relationship with Chevrolet. Anytime we can work together with our manufacturer in a different capacity than just helping us as a team, when they can get interested in drivers, they can get interested in individuals and see guys they want to help progress.
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