Honoring Ryan Pemberton’s Life and Contributions.
Ryan Pemberton, a seasoned crew chief who died on Sunday at 54, is deeply missed by the NASCAR community. Pemberton left an enduring impression on the racing world during his extraordinary career, which spanned decades. The cause of his passing has not been disclosed by the family, leaving fans and colleagues in shock.
Early Career and Achievements
Ryan Pemberton began his journey in the NASCAR garage 1988, working with Jack Roush. He worked with such legendary drivers as Mark Martin, Joe Nemechek, and Brian Vickers during his career. His proficiency and commitment produced notable accomplishments, including two Cup Series titles and three Xfinity Series triumphs.
JR Motorsports’ leadership
Pemberton joined JR Motorsports in the final ten years of his career, where he oversaw the NASCAR Xfinity Series program as competition director. The team won the driver’s championship three times under his direction, with Chase Elliott (2014) and Tyler Reddick (2018, 2019) taking home the titles. In addition, Pemberton served as crew chief in the pits, leading Regan Smith to victory in 2014.
“Throughout his ten years with JR Motorsports, Ryan played a critical role in the organization’s success,” said Kelley Earnhardt Miller, CEO of JR Motorsports. He had such a passion for competition and, as a leader, knew how to motivate everyone he worked with. He will always be part of the JRM family.”
Kelley extended her condolences, stating, “Our hearts go out to his wife Andrea and daughters Payton and Britton during this tremendously difficult time.” The outpouring of support highlights Pemberton’s profound influence on those he worked with and the broader racing family.
A Racing Family’s Legacy
Hailing from a racing family, Pemberton’s older brother, Robin, served as the former vice president of competition for NASCAR. The Pemberton family has faced multiple losses in recent years, including the passing of Randy Pemberton in 2022, a television broadcaster in the sport, and Bray Pemberton, Ryan’s nephew and the son of Robin, in 2021.
Reflecting on Pemberton’s Career
Ryan Pemberton’s career was filled with notable moments and achievements. In his early days as a crewmember of Robert Yates Racing’s No. 28 team alongside Hall of Fame driver Davey Allison, he laid the foundation for a remarkable journey. His first role as a crew chief came in 1995 with Martin Racing in the NASCAR Busch Grand National Series, where he guided Larry Pearson to two wins.
Challenges and Triumphs
Throughout his career, Pemberton encountered difficulties. Most notably, in 2003, he witnessed a turbulent season for the No. 01 team at MB2 Motorsports due to the career-ending injuries suffered by Jerry Nadeau. Despite the obstacles, Pemberton earned his first Cup win as a crew chief with Joe Nemechek at Kansas in 2004. His perseverance and commitment to the sport shone through, impacting drivers’ careers, including Brian Vickers, with whom he succeeded at Red Bull Racing in 2009.
A Decade with JR Motorsports
Pemberton’s final years as a crew chief came at JR Motorsports, where he spent a decade contributing to the team’s triumphs in the Xfinity Series. His leadership as the competition director played a pivotal role in securing championships. Pemberton’s last race as a crew chief was in 2018 at Road America with driver Michael Annett, marking the end of an illustrious career on the pit box.
Legacy and Impact
The passing of Ryan Pemberton has left a void in the NASCAR community, but his legacy lives on in the victories, relationships, and lasting impact he had on the teams and drivers he worked with. His passion for competition, leadership skills, and dedication to the sport have left an enduring mark, making him a revered figure in the history of NASCAR.
In honoring Ryan Pemberton’s memory, the NASCAR community reflects on the indomitable spirit that fueled his remarkable journey in racing. Though his passing brings sadness, his legacy will forever resonate in the roar of engines and the checkered flags of victory lanes across the NASCAR circuit.