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Joe Gibbs Racing announces new role for former crew chief Dave Rogers

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Joe Gibbs Racing announced Monday that former Cup crew chief Dave Rogers will be the technical director for its NASCAR Xfinity Series program.

Rogers had been a Cup crew chief from 2010 to early this season, working with Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards and Daniel Suarez. Rogers won 18 Cup races.

Rogers took a personal leave from the team in March after serving as crew chief for Suarez in the season’s first five races. Scott Graves assumed Rogers’ role with the team.

In his new role, Rogers will work closely with Steve deSouza, JGR’s executive vice president, in all aspects of competition across the organization’s Xfinity program.

“I really appreciate the support I’ve received over the past couple of months allowing me to take care of what I needed to in my personal life,” said Rogers in a statement from the team. “This position really excites me and I’m looking forward to working closely with Steve (deSouza), our crew chiefs and everyone in our XFINITY Series shop on all aspects of competition.”

 

Challenge of facing repaved track nothing like what Daniel Suarez faced last week

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A repaved and reconfigured track that he hadn’t driven on until today? No problem. It’s much easier than what Daniel Suarez experienced last week.

Suarez is looking forward to this week’s challenge after all he went through leading up to Martinsville and last weekend’s race.

Joe Gibbs Racing announced two days before Suarez took to the track at Martinsville Speedway that crew chief Dave Rogers would take an indefinite leave for personal reasons. Scott Graves, who won the 2016 Xfinity title with Suarez, is serving as Suarez’s crew chief.

Suarez admits that the change was a challenge.

The race wasn’t better. Suarez finished a season-worst 32nd in his first Cup run at Martinsville.

“Just happy to get that week over,’’ Suarez said Friday at Texas Motor Speedway. “There was a lot going on that weekend, and it was a lot of work and a lot of rush and a lot going on. I’m just glad to get that behind.’’

Suarez admits even with the changes to the track at Texas, this is a “more normal” week for him.

“Last week … I wasn’t very excited to get to the racetrack and talk to (the media), to be honest,’’ he said. “It was just a lot going on. I just wanted to get to the racetrack and drive the car. There were a lot of adjustments. When you change a key part of the team, it definitely changes something.

“Now for Texas, I feel we have more time to adapt and talk about things and talk about the racetrack and talk about the car. More and more confident coming into Texas.’’

Suarez will be busy this weekend, competing in both the Xfinity and Cup events. He’s looking forward to the extra track time because of the unknowns with the changes to the racing surface.

One thing he’ll focus on is to be better in the middle of races. While he has a pair of seventh-place finishes (Phoenix and Auto Club Speedway), those results have been because of strong finishes that made up for struggles in the middle of the race. His average running position in the middle of a race this season is 27.3, and his average finish is 19.3.

“I don’t feel that we have raced in the whole race very well, but we have closed the race good with a car that I felt like was capable of doing that,’’ Suarez said. “I had a lot of conversations with Dave about having the right car in the middle of the race to get there in the end. I know that we can do it. We just have to work on our communication to get the car closer to what I like and where I can feel more comfortable and be fast. Hopefully, I can get to that point fast with Scott.’’

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Daniel Suarez unsure how long he’ll be with new crew chief

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MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Reunited, but for how long?

Daniel Suarez doesn’t know.

Suarez is back with crew chief Scott Graves after Joe Gibbs Racing announced Wednesday that crew chief Dave Rogers would take an indefinite leave from the No. 19 team for personal reasons. No other information was provided for Rogers’ actions.

“It was a surprise for me as well,’’ Suarez said Friday at Martinsville Speedway. “I respect a lot Dave’s decision to do this and to try to take care of his personal stuff. You know, with a Cup schedule, as busy as it is, sometimes it’s difficult to do both things at the same time.

“I can tell you that he wishes he was here. I wish him the best with whatever decision he is making. I just hope that he comes back soon to do whatever that he loves to do – that is being in the races and being at the race track every weekend just like myself.”

Rogers’ absence comes after Suarez had finished seventh in back-to-week weeks.

With Rogers out, the organization turned to Graves, the crew chief for JGR’s No. 18 Xfinity team. His replacement with the Xfinity team will be named next week, the team stated.

Suarez and Graves won last year’s Xfinity title and Suarez said he had a role in having Graves fill in.

“I know Scott, I know what he can do,’’ Suarez said. “It was important to put somebody there that I knew already. I don’t know what is going to be the plan for the future. Maybe Scott is going to stay there for the full year. I don’t really know.’’

Graves, who last was a Cup crew chief in 2013 with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. at Roush Fenway Racing, has had a lot of catching up to do. His task didn’t get easier when Suarez backed into the wall in practice and had to go to a backup car.

“We had some kind of issue with the brakes,’’ Suarez said. “Actually in the first run everything went okay, I didn’t wreck or anything. I called that something was weird with the brakes. Then after that went to (qualifying trim) and we wrecked in the first lap pretty much.

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Joe Gibbs Racing crew chief Dave Rogers taking personal leave for indefinite period

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Joe Gibbs Racing announced Wednesday night that Dave Rogers, crew chief for Daniel Suarez, will take personal leave for an indefinite period of time. The team provided no other details.

Scott Graves will assume the role of crew chief for the No. 19 team, beginning this weekend at Martinsville Speedway.

Graves has been serving as the crew chief for JGR’s No. 18 Xfinity team. His replacement will be named next week.

This happens after Suarez has scored back-to-back top-10 finishes, placing seventh at both Phoenix and Auto Club Speedway.

 

Carl Edwards’ move gives crew chief fourth different driver in four years

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HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. — A new season means the same old thing for crew chief Dave Rogers.

He has a new driver.

With Carl Edwards deciding no longer to race, Daniel Suarez will become the fourth different driver Rogers has worked with in the past four years at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Rogers has made it to the Chase each of the past three years with Kyle Busch (2014), Denny Hamlin (2015) and Edwards (2016).

Rogers understands this challenge will be unlike the last three years. In each case, he was with a premier driver. Suarez may become that, but the rookie’s Daytona 500 start next month will be his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race.

“I’ve learned from the very best,’’ Rogers said of working with those Gibbs drivers. “Now I’m working with a rookie, so he’s going to bring in an entirely different perspective that is going to teach me even more. I think this is a really neat opportunity. Everything happens for a reason. I worked with three drivers to help Daniel get where he needs to be.’’

Rogers was with Busch from 2010-14 when a change was made to improve performance. Rogers went to Hamlin’s team and was content to stay there until car owner Joe Gibbs asked him to move him to Edwards’ team for the betterment of the organization.

Now, Rogers finds himself with another change after Edwards decided to step away from racing.

Rogers said among the things he needs to do in the coming weeks is to get to know Suarez and understand what type of coaxing will get the most out of the young driver.

Rogers also wants to ease Suarez about any concerns he has with joining a veteran team that nearly won the title last year.

“I would think that maybe there’s a concern of ‘Gosh, is this team going to accept me? I’m a rookie,’ ‘’ Rogers said. “We’ve got to get him over that immediately and let him know that he’s our driver. We’ve got to get the trust going both ways. If we can do that, that’s going to create an environment for Daniel where he can grow. He can make mistakes and know that it’s OK. He can push the limit and know that it’s OK.

“That’s what the first third of the season is really going to be about, that growth. Then, as we move into the season, we’re going to put more emphasis on performing, ‘Let’s go get those top fives, let’s take a shot at a win to buy our way into the Chase.’ Once we get into the Chase, ‘Let’s show them what we’re made of.’ ‘’

Rogers embraces the opportunity to work with a young driver and joked with Edwards about the change.

“I said, don’t be sad, if you had won the championship, the entire state of Missouri would have cheered,’’ Rogers said. “When Daniel wins it, the entire county of Mexico is going to cheer us. This is going to be way cooler than doing it with you. That’s a joke to lighten the spirit of Carl.

“You know how exciting it would be to put Daniel in victory lane at Daytona? That is an opportunity. We have that in front of us.’’

One challenge is Suarez’s lack of Cup experience. It’s easy to view this move as being similar to when Joey Logano rose to Cup at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Logano moved up a year earlier than planned to take Tony Stewart’s spot after he left to join Haas-CNC Racing to form Stewart-Haas Racing in 2009. While Logano won in his rookie season, he struggled and his four years in Cup with the organization were characterized by ups and downs. He flourished after joining Team Penske in 2013.

Suarez is moving up a year earlier than expected because of Edwards’ departure.

Rogers was Logano’s Xfinity crew chief. One difference, Rogers notes, in the two scenarios is that Logano was 18 when he entered his first Cup season. Suarez is 25. That’s significant. Rogers also can take what Logano went through that first year and help Suarez through such matters this year.

“I watched him struggle,’’ said Rogers, who guided Logano to five Xfinity wins in 2009. “I got to learn a lot from Joey, why he thought he was struggling, what he thought he was lacking. I can learn from those lessons and maybe avoid some of the pitfalls that Joey went through.’’