Legacy Motor Club appeared to be an organization on the rise in the NASCAR Cup Series heading into the 2023 season. There was reason to be optimistic after a solid 2022 campaign and the addition of a young and talented rookie driver as well as partnering with one of the sport’s all-time legends in the person of seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson as a co-owner and part-time driver.
Legacy already had 27-year-old driver Erik Jones, who was entering his third year with the No. 43 team, in the fold. The Byron, Michigan native was coming off a season in which he had scored a win in the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway as well as amassing a total of three top-five and 13 top-10 results. The future appeared to be a bright one for the organization as a whole.
However, things have not gone very well for the company that has undergone a name change in each of its past three seasons. Noah Gragson’s stint as the driver of the No. 42 car ended abruptly when it was discovered that he had engaged in less-than-desirable behavior on social media. Further, No. 43 car has not performed nearly as well as had been the case the year before.
Add to all of that, Johnson’s efforts in his three races as a driver proved to be lackluster.
Now, however, there is reason for optimism going forward. Earlier this year, Legacy announced that it would partner with Toyota going into the 2024 season making it one of only three full-time operations to be employing that brand of car. That places the company higher in the pecking order with its manufacturer than had been the case with Chevrolet. And more, it was recently revealed that talented John Hunter Nemechek will be brought in to drive the No. 42 car beginning next season.
To demonstrate that there is reason for optimism, Jones recorded a third-place finish on Sunday in the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway.
In a recent NASCAR Media availability, Jones said that Legacy continues to focus on the current season, but at the same time, is mindful of what lies ahead.
“I think it’s a constant push,” Jones explained. “I mean everybody’s pushing hard even knowing that we’re changing a lot of things in the off-season, and that’s now fast approaching at this point. We want to finish strong. We know our opportunities on the schedule to run well and we focus more on those. Last year there was more focus on running well every week, but with the resources we’ve got right now, we almost have to circle a bit some weeks that we know we have an opportunity to go do maybe better than others.”
Despite all of the changes that have occurred or are about to occur within the organization, Jones points out that his No. 43 team has remained relatively stable in his time there.
“I think it’s just good chemistry,” he said. “The group on the 43 car is 90% the same as when I showed up three years ago now to start driving. We’ve been through very highs and very lows and I think everybody knows it’s part of the game. At the end of the day, knowing that there’s a great path forward for us coming up is what’s kept everybody motivated and pushing forward.”
Legacy co-owner Maury Gallagher has, for several seasons, owned a championship winning NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series team under the GMS name. Recently, it was announced that the truck team would cease operations at the end of the 2023 campaign.
Jones says there will be benefits from that move that will help his team’s Cup Series day-to-day efforts.
“Yes, in a way,” the three-time Cup Series winner stated. “We’re going to absorb a large amount of that personnel into the Cup side which is a huge resource in itself. We’ve needed to add some people on the competition side and on the shop floor and even probably upstairs and those people coming over is going to be a big resource in itself. As far as the financial gain from it, I don’t think a lot is going to change on that side of things.”
Jones says that team ownership, though, is fully dedicated to improving their results in the NASCAR Cup Series.
“Maury’s very dedicated in what he’s putting into this race team even before that move. I think on the personnel side, absorbing those guys into the shop on day-to-day procedure and what we do to prepare cars is going to be the biggest gain for us.”
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