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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 fines three crew chiefs for lug nut violations

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NASCAR announced $10,000 fines Tuesday to crew chiefs Paul Wolfe (Brad Keselowski) and Mike Wheeler (Denny Hamlin) for their cars each having one lug nut unsecured at the end of last weekend’s Cup race at Chicagoland Speedway.

In the Xfinity Series, crew chief Chris Gabehart (Brandon Jones) was fined $5,000 for having one lug nut unsecured after that race.

All-Star Race buzz still has many in NASCAR talking

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The rules package and racing in Saturday night’s Monster Energy All-Star Race and Monster Open has many in the sport debating what to do next.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR chief racing development officer, said Monday on “The Morning Drive” that series officials will meet Wednesday with industry officials to discuss the race and “see where we go from here.”

The Xfinity Series will run a similar package this season at Pocono (June 2), Michigan (June 9) and Indianapolis (Sept. 8) after running it only at Indy last year.

MORE: Transcript of NASCAR’s comments after the All-Star Race

While O’Donnell noted Saturday night that he would “never say never” to running what was used in the All-Star race again later this year in Cup, he said the focus was on 2019 for the package.

Marcus Smith, chief executive officer of Speedway Motorsports Inc., said he would be for running the package in Cup at Kentucky (July 14). Kentucky is the last 1.5-mile track on the schedule before the playoffs begin in September.

“Certainly that track has been a place where R&D for the rest of the sport has happened, and we’d be happy to have it again there,” Smith told NBC Sports about Kentucky. “Any mile-and-a-half track, whether it’s ours or not. My interest is in making the whole sport fantastic, and I think we’ve got great opportunities for that.’’

Car owner Joe Gibbs said after the All-Star Race that more evaluation is needed with the package.

“I think there’s a lot to talk about,” Gibbs told NBC Sports after the race. “I’m sure we’ll make a good decision. Everybody is going to work together. I think (the race) will be something that everybody evaluates and thinks about. I think there’s a lot to it that going forward in the future would be very different. Cars will have a chance to be in the wind tunnel and do all the things that we do with them.”

Todd Gordon, crew chief for Joey Logano, cautioned Monday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio about a rush to use the package at other tracks immediately.

“You saw the race and as a team member you feel like, wow, there’s something there, but I think we’ve got to be smart about how we roll forward,” he said. “Sometimes that’s going to take more time than I think what our fan base is going to understand, but we’ve got to smart about how we look at this and what we can do with it. I think there’s potential there. If we just implement what we just did, I don’t know if we’re getting all the potential out of it.”

There also was quite a discussion on social media from several in the sport, from spotters and crew chiefs and more, about the racing and what to do next. Here’s what some were saying on Twitter.

 

 

 

 

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Chris Gabehart’s job as Denny Hamlin’s interim crew chief will be simple

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RICHMOND, Va. — Chris Gabhart’s biggest job as Denny Hamlin’s interim crew chief this weekend at Richmond Raceway could be just to sit back and watch the show.

“I can assure you,’’ Gabehart told NBC Sports, “I’ve had a little bit of conversation over the last day or two, he’s coming here motivated. You’re going to get the full force of Denny Hamlin over the next two days, and it’s going to be fun.’’

Hamlin comes to his home track after sweeping the Xfinity and Cup races at Darlington and then finding out this week that both winning cars failed inspection at the NASCAR R&D Center. Hamlin’s crew chief, Mike Wheeler, has been suspended two races, meaning he also will miss next weekend’s opening playoff race at Chicagoland Speedway.

Hamlin and Gabehart have worked together in the Xfinity Series this season. Gabehart also was Hamlin’s race engineer in the Cup Series in 2015.

MORE: Chris Gabehart – racer turned crew chief

Gabehart stresses that his main duty Friday is as Christopher Bell’s crew chief in the Xfinity Series for Joe Gibbs Racing. This is Bell’s first time at Richmond.

Also, today marks the debut of the flange fit composite car in the Xfinity Series. Bell will be among 30 drivers in such cars. The rest of the field will use the standard steel-bodied cars but those will weigh 150 pounds more than the composite cars.

Gabehart says he won’t be needed as much by Hamlin’s team Friday for Cup practice or qualifying.

“I’m going to go check on them, but it’s more or less me being plugged in where I can be to get up to speed with what they’ve got going on,’’ Gabehart said. “I won’t be involved in any right rear spring changes or shock changes or any of that stuff. (Wheeler) will still be plugged in from afar.

“There is so much support over there that they don’t need me for any of that. They’re just asking me to sit on the (pit) box with a little bit of experience pushing the (radio) button and making those gut feel calls (in the race).’’

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Xfinity crew chief Chris Gabehart penalized $5,000 for loose lug nut at Indy

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NASCAR has issued one penalty resulting from last weekend’s races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Chris Gabehart, crew chief for the No. 20 Xfinity Series car of Joe Gibbs Racing, was fined $5,000 on Wednesday.

Gabehart was penalized for violating Sections 10.4 and 10.9 of the NASCAR Rule Book covering Tires and Wheels: Lug nut(s) not properly installed at the conclusion of the Lilly Diabetes 250.

There were no other penalties related to last weekend’s Xfinity or NASCAR Cup races in Indianapolis or the Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora Speedway.