Legacy Motor Club’s move to Toyota sets up busy offseason
The championship race at Phoenix marked the end of the season for the majority of Cup Series teams but for Legacy Motor Club, it was only the beginning of a busy offseason.
The two-car Cup team co-owned by Maury Gallagher and Jimmie Johnson will make the switch the Toyota Racing Development over the offseason. The organization will have to make numerous changes as part of this process, starting with prepping equipment for a six-car manufacturer test at Phoenix in December.
“We want to do what we can in the offseason,” Erik Jones said ahead of the season finale at Phoenix. “We’ve got a month. We’ve got to cut bodies off, change engines over to come back and test here in a month. So there’s a ton of work to be done on that side of things.”
Preparing for the Phoenix test is only one item on the to-do list. The engineers will also work with a new group of people as part of the switch to Toyota Racing. They will have to learn a new simulation program after being with Chevrolet for several seasons.
Legacy MC announced the impending move to Toyota in May, the day after the rain-delayed race at Dover. The timing put the organization in a situation where it lost some of the tools previously available through Chevrolet. Though Legacy MC continued to make progress as the season progressed.
Jones only had two top-10 finishes and an average finish of 20.45 before the announcement. Rookie Noah Gragson had no top-10 finishes and an average finish of 27.55.
Jones scored five top-10 finishes and one top five during remaining 25 races of the season. His average finish was 20.4. Jones ended the season having spent 2,930 laps in the top 15. This was 31.8 percent of the season.
Carson Hocevar had an average finish of 23.13 in his eight starts for Legacy MC while replacing Gragson, who received a suspension for liking a racially insensitive post on social media. Gragson and Legacy MC parted ways in August so he could focus on the reinstatement process.
Hocevar scored the No. 42’s best finish of the season at Bristol by crossing the finish line 11th.
Hocevar had five of the No. 42’s eight top-20 finishes this season. Gragson had two. Mike Rockenfeller had one.
“I think we kind of went back to basics a bit,” Jones said about the progress. “We lost a handful of our tools that we had early in the season with our announcements, so we kind of had to go on our own.
“Got some good notes we had and really just take and refine those. And really, it’s just some of the guys. I mean, just good people in good places, hired some good engineers that came in and helped us a lot.”
Legacy MC will aim to build upon this late-season progress while taking advantage of the tools made available by Toyota Racing. The drivers for 2024 – Jones and John Hunter Nemechek – will have to work on building their relationships with TRD and with each other.
There is more work for Jones considering he has been with Chevrolet since the start of the 2021 season. Nemechek moved to the Toyota pipeline that same season after one year in Cup with Ford Performance.
Jones, who won a Truck Series championship with Kyle Busch Motorsports in 2015, does not have much experience working with Nemechek. He was in the Toyota pipeline while Nemechek was driving for Chevrolet and Ford teams.
Jones has worked with multiple teammates as Richard Petty Motorsports became Petty GMS Motorsports and then Legacy Motor Club.
Ty Dillon drove the No. 42 in 2022. Gragson made 21 starts in the car this season. Grant Enfinger, Josh Berry, Hocevar, Nemechek and Rockenfeller all made starts in the No. 42.
As Jones explained, this ever-changing driver lineup was not good for the two-car operation.
“You want a teammate that is running well, is making the program better, is pushing us all to be better,” Jones said. “When one team is on an island and running well and the other team is struggling, it’s really difficult on both teams.
“It’s not difficult only on the struggling team. It’s difficult on the team that’s running well to try to band aid and help the team that’s struggling. So we need continuity.”
Nemechek taking over the second car with the move to Toyota Racing will potentiall give Jones the continuity he desires. The next step will be building upon it and making Legacy MC more competitive on a consistent basis so that one – or both – cars contend for spots in the playoffs after a season of struggles.
“We’re obviously really excited for next year,” Jones said. “But we had goals we wanted to accomplish this season that, frankly, we didn’t reach but we still put our best foot forward.”