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.’’

Nashville Fair Board votes to terminate contract with operator of Fairgrounds Speedway

Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway
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The Nashville Metro Fair Board voted Tuesday to terminate its contract with the operator of Fairgrounds Speedway, a track being eyed for a possible NASCAR race, according to The Tennessean.

Last December, Formosa Productions and Bristol Motor Speedway announced “an agreement to explore bringing major NASCAR racing events” back to the .596-mile track. The earliest Nashville could potentially be added to the schedule is 2021, though the schedule for that season is expected to be revealed in April.

Bristol Motor Speedway released a statement Tuesday night saying it is still interested in pursuing future involvement with the Fairgrounds Speedway.

“We appreciate all that Tony and Claire Formosa have done to sustain local racing in Nashville over the years,” said Jerry Caldwell, executive vice president and general manager for Bristol Motor Speedway. “Today’s news does not change our interest or belief that Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway can be returned to prominence to help create a true renovation of the Fairgrounds. There is huge local, regional and national interest in the future of the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway. As Mayor (John) Cooper, the Fair Board and Council determine what’s next for the historic race track, we are ready to engage with them on the vision that we believe can deliver a bright future for the Fairgrounds.”

The vote to terminate the contract with Formosa Productions, operated by Tony and Claire Formosa, is in response to a claimed breach of contract, which was first raised by the city in April and includes unpaid concessions commissions and rent payments.

A fairgrounds spokesperson told The Tennessean that the Formosas would owe the city nearly $180,000 by the end of the year. The Tennessean reports the Formosas have 90 days to vacate the premises.

According to The Tennessean, Nashville Fairgrounds Director Laura Womack said she and another board member met Oct. 14 with the Formosas and asked that they provide specific contract changes and documents regarding attendance and revenue records from this year’s racing season.

A meeting where those documents were due to be delivered was rescheduled to Nov. 6 before it was canceled by the Formosas.

“This shows little to no faith that we will be paid by the end of the year,” said Fair Board member Caleb Hemmer, according to The Tennessean. “Which begs the issue that we need to start looking to the future and what we need to do as a board to ensure there’s racing next year if the (Formosas) can’t fulfill their obligations as put forth by (the contract).”

Jim Roberts, an attorney representing the Formosas, attended the meeting according to The Tennessean. Roberts believed the meeting, which was delayed two hours due to winter weather, was in violation of the opens meeting act due to it not being properly noticed.

The Formosas have operated the track since 2010 and entered into a five-year agreement in 2017 after the city chose its bid over one from Bristol Motor Speedway

The deal between Formosa Productions and Bristol Motor Speedway, which would need to be approved by the Fair Board, would focus “on a long-range plan of significant track improvements and high-profile race events that could include NASCAR events upon the facility meeting standards.”

In May, Bristol officials revealed a $60 million proposal to renovate the track.

The plan would increase seating capacity of the .596-mile short track from its current size of 15,000 to 30,000, as well as include an expanded concourse, premium seating, pedestrian tunnels and sound barriers.

 

Penalty report from ISM Raceway

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NASCAR has fined five crew chiefs for unsecured lug nuts on their cars after last weekend’s playoff races at ISM Raceway.

Each fine was for having a single unsecured lug nut.

In the Cup Series:

Paul Wolfe, crew chief on Brad Keselowski‘s No. 2 Ford, and Mike Hillman Sr., crew chief on J.J. Yeley‘s No. 53 Chevrolet, were each fined $10,000.

In the Xfinity Series:

Taylor Moyer, crew chief on Zane Smith‘s No. 8 Chevrolet, was fined $5,000.

In the Truck Series:

Joe Shear, Jr., crew chief on Johnny Suater’s No. 13 Chevrolet, and Trip Bruce lll, crew chief on race winner Stewart Friesen‘s No. 52 Chevrolet, were fined $2,500.

Preliminary entry lists for Championship Weekend in Miami

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NASCAR’s final race weekend of the year has arrived with the championship races for all three of its national series at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Here are the preliminary entry lists for all three races.

Cup – Ford EcoBoost 400 (3 p.m. ET Sunday on NBC)

A full field of 40 cars are entered into the race.

Drew Herring is entered in Gaunt Brothers Racing’s No. 96 Toyota for his Cup debut.

John Hunter Nemechek will make his third start in Front Row Motorsports’ No. 36 Ford in relief of Matt Tifft.

Joe Nemechek is entered in Premium Motorsports’ No. 15 Chevrolet.

Joey Logano won this race last year over Martin Truex Jr. to claim his first Cup title.

Click here for the entry list.

Xfinity – Ford EcoBoost 300 (3:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN)

There are 39 cars entered. One car will not qualify for the race.

Jeb Burton is entered in JR Motorsports’ No. 8 Chevrolet.

Harrison Burton is entered in Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 Toyota.

Tyler Reddick won this race last year over Cole Custer to claim the championship.

Click here for the entry list.

Trucks – Ford EcoBoost 200 (8 p.m. ET Friday on FS1)

There are 37 trucks entered. Five trucks will not qualify for the event.

K&N Pro Series West champion Derek Kraus is entered in Bill McAnally Racing’s No. 19 Toyota for his fifth start of the season.

Angela Ruch is entered in Niece Motorsports’ No. 44 Chevrolet.

Christian Eckes is entered in Kyle Busch Motorsports’ No. 51 Toyota.

NBC Sports analyst Parker Kligerman is entered in Henderson Motorsports’ No. 75 Chevrolet.

No drivers are listed for NEMCO Motorsports’ No. 87 Chevrolet and Reaume Brothers Racing’s No. 33 and No. 34 Toyotas.

Brett Moffitt won this race last year to claim the championship.

Click here for the entry list.

JJL Motorsports announces new team owner

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JJL Motorsports, Jesse Little‘s Gander Outdoors Truck Series team, announced Tuesday it has sold its assets to Logan Puckett, president of Diversified Utility Group, a turnkey general contractor specializing in fiber optic telecommunications construction.

The company will sponsor Little in Friday’s race at Homestead-Miami Speedway (8 p.m. ET on FS1).

Puckett will re-brand the team as Diversified Motorsports Enterprises in 2020 with plans to compete part-time with Little as its primary driver.

Little, 22, has made eight starts in the Truck Series this year in his No. 97 Ford.

More: Jesse Little to compete full-time for JD Motorsports in 2020

The team announced in early September that its assets were up for sale.

“I’m honored to represent Diversified Utility Group this weekend at Homestead,” Little said in a press release. “Logan has been so excited about the opportunity to enter the Truck Series as an owner in 2020, but to have his company be a part of our last race under the JJL Motorsports banner as a sponsor is even more awesome.

“Hopefully we can have a good performance for him on Friday night before looking ahead to 2020.”

Said Puckett: “I am really looking forward to taking over an outstanding program that JJL has put together as it provides a great foundation to build on and hopefully grow. I think the growth potential is what excites me the most.

“I am certainly looking forward to the challenge that this provides, and I hope that I can bring some value to the team and ultimately it would be awesome if I can bring value to the sport as a young owner with a fresh outlook.”