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

1 Comment

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.’’

NASCAR Power Rankings: Kevin Harvick still No. 1 after quiet Vegas

Leave a comment

Kevin Harvick didn’t have a flashy night Sunday in Las Vegas, but it didn’t keep him from retaining the No. 1 spot in this week’s NASCAR Power Rankings.

After winning the Bristol night race, Harvick finished in the top 10 in the first two stages in Vegas before placing 10th at race’s end.

Kurt Busch’s win at his home track vaulted him into the top 10 as 12 drivers received votes.

More: Playoff standings after Las Vegas

Here is this week’s NASCAR Power Rankings:

1. Kevin Harvick (Last week No. 1): In the last eight races he’s won three times and finished outside the top 10 only twice.

2. Martin Truex Jr. (Last week No. 5): Placed fourth for his 11th top-five finish in the last 14 races.

3. Alex Bowman (Last week unranked): Finished fifth for his second top five and fifth top-10 finish in the last six races.

4. Denny Hamlin (Last week unranked): Left Vegas with a third-place finish to snap a three-race streak of finishing outside the top 10.

5. Kurt Busch (Last week unranked): Snapped a 46-race winless streak with his victory and advanced to the Round of 8.

6. Kyle Busch (Last week No. 3): Finished sixth after a “dismal” night. He has four consecutive top 10s.

7. Brad Keselowski (Last week No. 5): Finished 13th to give him two finishes outside the top 10 since he won at Richmond.

8. Chase Briscoe (Last week unranked): Opened the Xfinity playoffs with his second consecutive win.

8. Chase Elliott (Last week No. 2): Led 73 laps, but had to settle for a 22nd-place finish in Vegas.

8. Joey Logano (Last week No. 3): Finished 14th for his second straight finish outside the top 10.

Also receiving votes: Erik Jones and Chris Buescher.

NASCAR announces changes to Kansas playoff weekend

Leave a comment

Citing “programming changes,” NASCAR announced shifts in the race dates and start times for its visit next month to Kansas Speedway.

The Xfinity, ARCA and Truck Series races have been shifted, while the Cup race remains at 2:30 p.m. ET Sunday, Oct. 18.

The biggest move is the Truck Series race shifting from Friday night to Saturday afternoon.

Here are the changes.

Friday, Oct. 16, 8:30 p.m. ETARCA Menards Series on FS1 or FS2; network TBD at a later date (previously at 10 p.m. ET)

Saturday, Oct. 17, 4 p.m. ETTruck Series on FOX (previously Friday, Oct. 16 at 7 p.m. ET on FS1)

Saturday, Oct. 17, 7 p.m. ET Xfinity on NBCSN (previously 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN)

 

Xfinity Series playoff standings after Las Vegas

Leave a comment

Chase Briscoe opened the Xfinity Series playoffs by earning his second consecutive win.

His victory Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway gives him 57 playoff points and an automatic spot in the Round of 8.

Harrison Burton holds the final transfer spot. He has a two-point advantage over Ross Chastain.

Behind Chastain below the cutline are Michael Annett (-10 points), Riley Herbst (-14) and Brandon Brown (-20).

Below is the full Xfinity Series playoff standings going into Saturday’s race at Talladega (4:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Drivers in red are below the cutline to advance. Drivers in yellow are in the remaining playoff spots.

Xfinity Series playoff standings

Cup playoff standings after Las Vegas

Leave a comment

Kurt Busch flipped the script on the Cup playoff standings with his win Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

He entered the Round of 12 as the last driver in the playoff standings, but is the first driver to clinch a spot in the Round of 8.

Replacing Busch in the bottom spot of the playoff standings is Austin Dillon. He is 32 points behind Alex Bowman, who holds the final cutoff spot.

Behind Bowman is Kyle Busch (-9 points), Clint Bowyer (-20), Aric Almirola (-27) and Dillon.

“Obviously, the 1 car (Kurt Busch) was not a car that we needed to win a race,” Clint Bowyer said after Sunday’s race. “It’s been a hell of a battle back there with cars that are kind of in the same wheelhouse as far as points-wise. (Kurt Busch) winning changes that landscape quite a bit, but we’re only 20 points out.”

Here is the full playoff standings entering Sunday’s playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

Drivers in red are below the cutline to advance to the Round of 8. Drivers in yellow hold the remaining available playoff spots.

Cup playoff standings