“With both Randall and Ernie coming on board, it gives us more than anything new ideas,” Allmendinger said. “Ernie has a ton of experience when it comes to this role from all the years he was at Harvick’s shop and with the RCR (Richard Childress Racing) alliance. That’s going to help us immediately with having an even better relationship with RCR. Then what I really like about Randall is that, even though he hasn’t been a crew chief, he’s done every role you can ask for - - whether it’s as a driver (Late Model), car chief, engineer, test team or building race cars. I think we are going to speak the same language pretty quickly. I know his knowledge is going to help us. I really look forward to getting the year kicked off and seeing where we are at as a team.”
Cope returns home to JTG Daugherty Racing, transitioning from JR Motorsports where he was crew chief for 2014 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion Chase Elliott. In 2015, Elliott collected one win, 11 top-five and 27 top-10 finishes and finished runner-up in the championship standings with Cope at the helm.
“I worked for JTG Daugherty Racing years ago and when I left, Tad (Geschickter) and I stayed in close contact because we knew we would eventually end up back together when the time was right,” Cope said. “In between there, it worked out good because I got a lot of experience with big teams, won a lot of races and learned things that will help us here. I see the atmosphere that Tad has built and I wanted to be a part of that. We’ve got a good group of people and I think if we put the whole package together for AJ, he will go out there and compete on a weekly basis. I honestly think he is a top top-10 driver.”
Before Cope’s time at JR Motorsports, his journey included six seasons working with Kevin Harvick Inc. (KHI) and Richard Childress Racing (RCR). He racked up nine victories in the NASCAR Xfinity Series (NXS), including eight with Harvick. During his tenure at KHI in the NXS, he also led teams to 79 top-five and 120 top-10 finishes. Over 13 seasons, Cope earned 15 victories in the NXS and nine in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
During his time at JTG Daugherty Racing, Cope was a crew chief with drivers Stacy Compton and Marcos Ambrose in 2006 and 2007. Before that, he was a driver himself competing in the NASCAR Southwest Series, NASCAR K&N Pro Series West (two wins), NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and he also made an appearance in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Now, the Tacoma, Washington-native will be responsible for base product development and all car production-based operations.
“As the competition director, I’ll oversee the car development and production process, look after the budget and make sure we have everything we need in the right areas and get the most out of what we have,” Cope said. “I’ll make sure our new crew chief, Randall, has exactly what he needs to be competitive. It’s going to be his first shot at being a crew chief and he’s the right guy for the position. I feel 100% in my heart that he is going to succeed and I’m going to help him succeed.”
Burnett was hand selected by Allmendinger and JTG Daugherty Racing team officials to lead the team as they vie for a coveted spot in the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Chase for the championship.
“This came together quickly,” Burnett said. “When I met with AJ and Tad, we just hit it off and I’ve always wanted to help a team grow into something bigger. There are a lot of good people here and some of which I’ve worked with before. I know the quality of work they do and the level they hold themselves to bringing a lot of good things to the company. Also, working with AJ is going to be exciting for me. We kind of grew up with the same background. AJ obviously has a tremendous amount of talent and is very passionate and very vocal about his passion.”
Burnett has been a racer all his life whether it was building and racing his own cars on a local level or holding a leadership role as a team lead engineer in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. He joins JTG Daugherty Racing after a 10-year stint at Chip Ganassi Racing.
During his early years at Chip Ganassi Racing, he was a 7-post analysis engineer, a lead test team engineer and a data acquisition engineer. In 2010, during his first year as team lead race engineer for the No. 1 car, Burnett visited Victory Lane three times with driver Jamie McMurray, with big wins in two “crown jewel” races - the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. That same year McMurray won four pole awards, posted nine top-five and 12 top-10 finishes with Burnett as lead race engineer.
In 2013, the Fenton, Missouri-native moved to the No. 42 team to become the lead engineer for Juan Pablo Montoya, who posted four top-five and eight top-10s that season in the No. 42 car. Montoya came close to victory a few times that year producing his best result of second-place at Dover International Speedway.
2014 was a big year for Burnett as rookie Kyle Larson landed the No. 42 ride. With an inexperienced NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver, Burnett helped the team earn eight top-five finishes and 17 top-10 finishes and came close to victory several times. Larson had runner-up finishes at both Auto Club Speedway and New Hampshire Motor Speedway and also scored a pole award at both Richmond International Raceway (4/26/14) and Pocono Raceway (8/3/14) along the way. For their efforts, Larson earned the 2014 Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors. Burnett continued his work with Larson throughout 2015.
Burnett received a mechanical engineering degree from UNC Charlotte. His engineering skills, leadership abilities, knowledge and experience from inside a race car and atop the pit box make him a great fit at JTG Daugherty Racing as the team looks to achieve their performance goals moving into 2016 and beyond.
“The people that come to JTG Daugherty Racing stay here,” Burnett said. “That’s attributed to how Tad and Jodi (Geschickter) treat their people and run their operation. They will add a few more quality people in addition to the great people they have in place to help take this place to the next level and be successful for our brands.”