COVID protocols lead to changes for two JGR pit crews

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WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – The pit crews of Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch each will have a change because of COVID protocols, Joe Gibbs Racing confirmed to NBC Sports on Sunday morning.

Bryan Backus will be the front tire changer on Truex’s No. 19 team Sunday. He replaces Hunter Masling. The team says Masling is out because of COVID protocols (close contact). Backus has been the front tire changer this season on the No. 37 JTG Daugherty Racing team of Ryan Preece. JTG Daugherty Racing gets its pit crew members from Joe Gibbs Racing.

Joshua Pech will be the fueler for Busch’s No. 18 team Sunday. He replaces Matthew Tyrrell. The team says Tyrrell is out because of COVID protocols (close contact). Pech has been the fueler on the No. 37 JTG Daugherty Racing team of Preece this season.

Truex starts ninth in Sunday’s Cup race at Watkins Glen International (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN). Busch starts 20th.

According to Racing Insights, the No. 19 pit crew of Truex ranks eighth based on average four-tire pit stop times. Busch’s No. 18 team ranks 11th in that same category, according to Racing Insights.

“We hope it doesn’t impact things,” Truex said Sunday of the change to his pit crew. “Honestly, at the end of the day you hope he’s ready to go. Tough circumstances the way it all worked out because he didn’t even test positive, he was around somebody who did. It’s kind of weird times as we all know, but hopefully it doesn’t affect us.”

For the No. 37 team, Marcus Horton will serve as the team’s front tire changer for Backus. Cory White will serve as the team’s fueler for Pech. Also, Brandon Traino will replace Brandon Linker as the team’s rear tire changer. No reason was given for that move.