When J.P. Morgan was 22 years old he decided he wanted to drive race cars. He packed his belongings, left his Texas home and headed to his native North Carolina.
Today, at age 38, the Mooresville resident has 13 victories in the CARS X-1R Pro Cup Series, with his most recent one coming earlier this month at Motor Mile Speedway near Radford, Va.
He also won two championships, one in the Stock Car Championship Series and the other in the Pro Cup Series.
This year, Morgan is again vying for the Pro Cup Series title while planning his entry into NASCAR’s K&N Pro Series East in August. He has set the Aug. 8 race at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International as his first appearance in the series.
Then, if things go well, he’ll make an Aug. 16 trip to Virginia International Raceway. Morgan would like to finish his limited K&N season Sept. 26 at Dover.
“The road course races are back-to-back weeks and you’ve got to have a dedicated car for that one,” said Morgan, who commutes an hour and 45 minutes daily to his race shop in Biscoe, about 25 miles south of Asheboro. “The Dover race is the only other one that doesn’t coincide with our races in the Pro Cup Series.”
Morgan had hoped to enter a K&N Series race earlier this year, but his Chevrolet wasn’t ready. He acquired a chassis from Billy Hess’ Mooresville company and his small team constructed the rest of the car.
He then happened to walk into C.J. Faison’s Mooresville shop the day Faison decided he was no longer going to compete in the K&N Series. Morgan bought three of his cars and went from owning one to four K&N cars. However, only one is race-ready.
“Timing is everything,” Morgan said.
For Morgan, timing has been his friend and foe.
Morgan was born in Charlotte and has lived in Memphis, Tenn.; Houston and San Antonio, Texas; and Sydney, Australia. He was studying international business with a concentration in marketing at the University of Texas-San Antonio when the racing bug bit.
He had the opportunity to compete in NASCAR’s Weekly Racing Series with sponsorship from Pennzoil, so he packed up and headed to North Carolina.
Morgan’s parents had grown up in Montgomery County, so it only seemed natural for Morgan to move to Ether where he had family and friends. It was 1998 and racing was booming.
“The way I made my decision as to what to start racing in was I saw Ricky Hendrick racing at Concord in the Quaker State car,” Morgan said. “I said, ‘If Rick Hendrick thinks this is where his son needs to be to go racing, then this is where I need to go.’
“I called my dad and told him I’d figured out where I was going to start racing. I said, ‘I think I need to start in this Late Model Division.’ At that time, starting in late model at Concord was a pretty tall order when you had no idea what you were doing. I’d never driven a race car.”
Morgan attended the Buck Baker Racing School, when Baker and his son Buddy were operating it, and the Richard Petty Driving Experience.
Next, he needed a car. That’s when he met Dale Earnhardt.
Pennzoil had started sponsoring Steve Park at Dale Earnhardt Inc. and Earnhardt’s three oldest children had decided to no longer race late models. Earnhardt called Morgan’s grandmother and told her to tell her grandson to come bring a truck to DEI.
Morgan spent some quality time with the seven-time NASCAR champion before leaving with a late model and a stocked pit box.
NASCAR Busch Series (now Nationwide) regulars Jim and Chuck Bown then took Morgan under their wing. Within two years, Morgan owned a race shop in a building where chicken house implements were once sold.
Things appeared to be going well for Morgan in the weekly racing series and he was ready to take the next step in his career when 9/11 occurred. That event drastically changed the racing landscape. Many sponsors withdrew and it became a sport where owners wanted drivers with financial backing.
Morgan lost his sponsor and had to look in a different direction. That’s when he turned to road racing and the Hooters Pro Cup Series.
“Timing and money dictated where I was going to go (to race),” Morgan said.
Morgan made his Pro Cup Series debut in 2002, but didn’t run a full season until 2008. His first victory came in 2009 at Iowa Speedway, when the series carried the USAR moniker. His best season came in 2012 when he won half of the 14 events and claimed the series championship.
“That was such a great achievement for us,” Morgan said about the 2012 title. “I was overwhelmed at one point. Every time I see the banners in the shop and the big checks on the wall I never quit smiling. No matter how long I live I will cherish that from here to eternity.”
This year has been a bit of a struggle for Morgan, and he points to determining the setup needed for the new American Racer bias-ply tire that the series is using. Morgan said his team took what it learned at Memphis and applied it at Motor Mile.
“That win meant so much,” Morgan said. “To get that monkey off our back that’s been sitting there for three races, it’s a big relief.”
Morgan’s next Pro Cup Series race is June 28 at Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Speedway.
Timm captures 1st PASS victory
Mooresville’s Cole Timm wrestled the lead from Concord veteran Preston Peltier with one lap remaining and then held off Peltier to win the recent PASS Super Late Model 150 at South Boston (Va.) Speedway. It was the 15-year-old Timm’s first career victory on the PASS circuit.
Timm initially took the lead from 13-year-old Harrison Burton of Huntersville on lap 114 following the race’s first caution. He was still leading when the event’s second and final yellow flag waved on lap 146 for a fourth-turn spin by Hickory’s Tyler Church.
On the double-file restart, Peltier grabbed the lead from Timm, but Timm fought back on the outside, grabbing the top position and then edging Peltier by 0.205-second.
Trevor Noles of Charlotte finished third while Burton, son of NASCAR driver Jeff Burton, took fourth. Church finished seventh and Brandon Setzer, from Newton, took 10th.
Burton led the most laps, setting the pace for 65 laps, while Timm led twice for 35 laps. Timm averaged 73.698 mph on the four-tenths-mile oval.