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Joe Gibbs Racing announces 2019 crew chief realignment

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On Thursday, Joe Gibbs Racing announced a crew chief realignment for the 2019 season for four of its teams.

Chris Gabehart will take over for Mike Wheeler as Denny Hamlin‘s crew chief in the Cup Series. Wheeler and Hamlin parted ways following the season finale at Homestead. Gabehart spent the last three seasons as an Xfinity crew chief for JGR earning a total of nine wins during that time. Last year, he was the crew chief for the Xfinity No. 19 team of Brandon Jones.

Eric Phillips will also move from the Xfinity series to Cup as the car chief for Hamlin. He earned eight wins during three seasons as an Xfinity crew chief on the No. 18.

Jeff Meendering will fill the crew chief spot on the Xfinity No. 19 vacated by Gabehart and will be paired with Jones.

Meendering returns to JGR after two years with Stewart-Haas Racing and the No. 00 car.

Ben Beshore moves from his current role as engineer on Kyle Busch‘s car to fill the role of crew chief on the Xfinity No. 18. This team typically fields multiple drivers during the season.

“With such a short offseason it’s important to start work toward the 2019 season immediately and we are proud with the teams we have assembled now, both in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and in the Xfinity Series,” said owner Joe Gibbs in a press release. “With Chris Gabehart joining Adam Stevens, Chris Gayle, and Cole Pearn on the Cup side we believe we have the right leaders in place to benefit our entire organization.”

Former driver Mark McFarland will become team manager and crew chief for JGR’s K&N Pro series and ARCA car. In 31 starts in the Xfinity series, McFarland scored one top 10 at Talladega in 2006 while driving for Dale Earnhardt Jr.

“In addition, we take a tremendous amount of pride in our accomplishments in the Xfinity Series and are excited to have Jeff Meendering and Ben Beshore join Jason Ratcliff to lead our efforts there, as well as bolster our developmental program in ARCA with the addition of Mark McFarland,” Gibbs said.

NASCAR America: Kyle Busch can afford to lose interim crew chief for Daytona

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Kyle Busch may have yet another view in his ear this weekend when he races in the Coke Zero 400.

Interim crew chief Ben Beshore may be suspended for the race after two unsecured lug nuts were found on the No. 18 Toyota after the Sonoma race.

The possible loss of Beshore comes after Busch’s usual crew chief, Adam Stevens, was suspended four races for a wheel falling off Busch’s car following a pit stop at Dover.

Daytona will be the fourth race of that suspension. NASCAR America’s analysts discussed the impact of the possible suspension for Busch, who is still looking for his first win since July of last year.

“They’re not making mistakes, they’re just finding themselves in difficult positions,” Dale Jarrett said. “This is certainly another one of those, going to a race track Kyle Busch can win at. But who you have on that pit box means a lot as for performing all through a race.”

Said Jeff Burton, “The frustration level is mounting, obviously. Kyle Busch is expecting to win races. … I think if you’re going to lose your crew chief, this is probably the race you want to lose it for. Going to Daytona, you pretty much have a plan going there. The pit strategy will be interesting with the stages, but if I was going to a race track, this would be the race I’d feel most comfortable without my crew chief.”

Watch the above video for the full segment.

Kyle Busch’s interim crew chief faces one-race suspension for lug nut violation

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Kyle Busch faces going to Daytona International Speedway next weekend with his third different crew chief in the last month.

Crew chief Adam Stevens was suspended four races when a tire rolled off Busch’s car during the Dover race earlier this month. Engineer Ben Beshore took over as interim crew chief. He faces a one-race suspension after two lug nuts were found not secured on Busch’s car after Sunday’s race at Sonoma Raceway.

Section 12.5.2.6.3.b lists the minimum penalty for lug nut violations. The penalty for having two unsecured lug nuts is a one-race suspension for the crew chief and a $20,000 fine.

A NASCAR spokesperson confirmed to NBC Sports that there were no other issues found in inspection after the race. NASCAR will announce penalties later this week.

Busch finished fifth in Sunday’s race.

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Kyle Busch, interim crew chief Ben Beshore off to a strong start

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Kyle Busch keeps driving strong, but adversity keeps proving to be stronger.

Busch has not won a NASCAR Cup race in 29 starts, his most recent points-paying triumph coming in last summer’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It’s one of the longest winless streaks of Busch’s Cup career.

Thus far this season, he’s had five top-five finishes, including runner-up showings at Martinsville and Charlotte and third-place showings at Phoenix and Talladega.

But adversity has had the upper hand in several races, as well. There were DNF’s at Daytona and Bristol and a 22nd-place performance at his home track in Las Vegas.

And let’s not forget the embarrassing situation last week at Dover. Busch started from the pole and had what appeared to be a very strong car.

Kyle Busch and interim crew chief Ben Beshore combined Friday to earn the pole for Sunday’s Pocono 400 NASCAR Cup race at Pocono Raceway.

But when an air gun mistake caused a tire not to be attached and fell off as Busch pulled away from pit road, it was arguably the costliest bit of adversity this season.

While Busch managed to rally to finish 16th at Dover, the loose tire episode cost him crew chief Adam Stevens, regular rear tire carrier Kenneth Barber and rear tire changer Jacob Seminara – all three suspended by NASCAR for the next four races for the tire incident.

“It was human error, an accident,” Busch said. “The (air) gun didn’t get flipped from reverse to forward and it’s just part of it.

“Human error, I make mistakes all the time and Adam (Stevens, crew chief) makes mistakes all the time. We just have to live through it.

“That’s a big penalty and it’s unfortunate that we have to live through it. The way the rule was written, it’s intent of the rule wasn’t quite what transpired there, but we live and die by the rule book I guess so the consequences are there.”

Stevens isn’t just Busch’s crew chief, he’s also become a close confidant and friend since assuming his spot on the No. 18 pit box at the start of the 2015 season.

Their relationship extends well past the racetrack, and it’s led not only to a NASCAR Cup championship in 2015, but also nine Cup wins for the No. 18 team.

“Adam is the reason why we are successful,” Busch said. “He puts together a game plan and we learn how to be able to go through the weekend without him.

“It’s just an unfortunate circumstance with our team. But we’re strong and a good group and we’ll continue to focus on what we need to. That’s all we can do.”

In place of Stevens as crew chief for the next four races will be Ben Beshore. He’s far from a stranger to Busch: he’s the No. 18 team’s chief engineer.

In the first day of working together Friday, during the first practice session of the weekend as well later in the afternoon in NASCAR Cup qualifying, Busch and Beshore worked very well together, resulting in Busch earning the pole for the second straight race.

“So far, so good and to come out here gives us the No. 1 pit selection and gives us the track position to start, but we have to keep it,” Busch said. “As we saw last week, we definitely missed the eight-ball on that and screwed it up pretty early in the race and knocked ourselves down and out almost.”

In a way, there’s a kind of juxtaposition with the current circumstances for Busch and Stevens, who had to learn how to succeed for 11 races when Busch was sidelined with a broken right leg and fractured left foot during a crash in the 2015 Xfinity Series season opener.

Now, Busch has to learn how to succeed for four races without Stevens.

“I think it will be hard,” Busch said. “We’ll do what we need to do. … To work as hard as we do and do what we do without him, it’s going to be fun because it is a challenge.

“But it’s also sad at the same time because you have to be without one of your main people.”

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