A significant milestone start is in the making for James Small, crew chief for Martin Truex Jr. and the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota TRD Camry team in the NASCAR Cup Series. By participating in this weekend’s Cup Series Playoff opening event at Darlington Raceway, Small will call his 100th career event as a crew chief in NASCAR’s premier series.
A native of Melbourne, Australia, Small, who spent eight years working in the V8 Supercars Championship in Australia before spending three seasons in an engineering role at Richard Childress Racing, made his first two appearances as a Cup crew chief at Watkins Glen International and at Michigan International Speedway in August. By then, he was a lead engineer for the No. 77 Furniture Row Racing Toyota Camry team piloted by Erik Jones and was named Jones’ interim crew chief for two events after Jones’ regular crew chief Chris Gayle was suspended for two races and fined $50,000 due to a post-race infraction stemming from the previous event at Pocono Raceway. During Small’s two appearances as a Cup crew chief, Jones finished 10th and third at Watkins Glen International and at Michigan International Speedway, respectively.
After moving to Joe Gibbs Racing in 2019, where he continued to work as lead engineer for the 2017 Cup champion Martin Truex Jr., crew chief Cole Pearn and the No. 19 JGR Toyota Camry team, Small was named a full-time Cup Series crew chief for Truex for the 2020 season after Pearn resigned from his role. Pearn and Truex commenced the 2020 Cup Series season with a 32nd-place result in the 62nd running of the Daytona 500 after Truex was involved in a late multi-car wreck. Through the following nine events, his best result was third at Atlanta Motor Speedway in June. Then during the following event at Martinsville Speedway, Small achieved his first victory as a NASCAR crew chief after Truex led 132 of 500 en route to his first victory of the season and second in a row at Martinsville.
Through the remaining 15 Cup regular season events in 2020, Small and Truex achieved nine top-five results, including seven consecutive top-three results between July and August, and a total of 11 top-10 results before entering the 2020 Cup Playoffs. Despite transferring from the Playoff’s Round of 16 all the way to the Round of 8, Small served a one-race suspension prior to the second Round of 8 Playoff at Texas Motor Speedway after NASCAR confiscated the spoiler from Truex’s car and issued penalties that included Small’s suspension, a $35,000 final and a dock 20 driver/owner points. Despite Small’s return at Martinsville Speedway in November, Truex was unable to make the Championship Round at Phoenix Raceway after settling in 22nd place due to making a late unscheduled pit stop for a loose right-front wheel. In the end, Small and Truex capped off their first season in seventh place in the final standings along with one victory, 13 top-five results, 22 top-10 results and an average-finishing result of 12.0.
The duo of Small and Truex initiated the 2021 Cup season on another strong note. After logging two top-10 results through the first four scheduled events, they claimed their first victory of the season at Phoenix Raceway in March. A month later, they notched their second victory of the season at Martinsville in April following a late battle with teammate Denny Hamlin. By then, Truex became the first multi-Cup winner through the first eight scheduled events. Small and Truex then became three-time winners of 2021 four races later after Truex fended off a hard-charging Kyle Larson in the closing laps.
Fourteen regular-season races later, where Small and Truex achieved five additional top-10 results, the 2021 Cup Playoffs commenced at Darlington in September. Then a week later at Richmond Raceway, Small and Truex transferred from the Round of 16 to the Round of 12 after Truex led 80 of 400 en route to a fourth victory of the season. Three additional results inside the top 10 were enough for the duo to transfer all the way to the Championship Round finale at Phoenix Raceway in November and with an opportunity to win the title. During the finale, however, Truex, who was leading late in the event, settled in second place both on the track and in the final standings behind Kyle Larson. In his second full-time season as a Cup crew chief, Small recorded four victories, 13 top-five results, 20 top-10 results and an average-finishing result of 12.0 with Truex.
Remaining as Truex’s Cup crew chief for a third consecutive season, Small led the No. 19 JGR Toyota TRD Camry team to a pole, seven stage victories, three top-five results, 12 top-10 results and an average-finishing result of 13.2 throughout the 26-race regular-season stretch. The results, however, were not enough for the duo to make the 2022 Cup Series Playoffs after they missed the cutline by three points. Small and Truex, however, enter the 10-week Playoff stretch with a goal to capture their first victory of the season before making another bid for the Playoffs in 2023.
Through 99 previous Cup appearances, Small has achieved five victories, one pole, 30 top-five results, 56 top-10 results and 2223 laps led while working with two different competitors (Martin Truex Jr. and Erik Jones).
Small is scheduled to call his 100th Cup Series event as a crew chief at Darlington Raceway for the Cook Out Southern 500 and the opening event of the 2022 Cup Series Playoffs. The event’s coverage is scheduled for Sunday, September 4, at 6 p.m. ET on USA Network.