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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 Scan All: ‘It’s all good. Don’t panic.’

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“What’s the points look like,” Kyle Larson asked his crew after he was involved in the Lap 105 accident that put several playoff contenders’ seasons in jeopardy.

“Doesn’t look real hot for the points, so let’s just get it fixed and we’ll sort it out,” Chad Johnston replied.

Once the race got restarted, Aric Almirola passed Daniel Suarez to gain one point and drop Larson below the cutline.

“What’s it look like now?” Larson asked.

‘We’re out,” Johnston answered.

Fate had different plans. Jeffrey Earnhardt was spun by Daniel Hemric in Turn 17 on the last lap – and a potential point lay ahead of Larson.

“Keep coming, Keep coming, the 96 wrecked,” Larson was informed on the radio. “Keep coming. Hustle it, hustle it, hustle it. Gotta beat this 96.”

“Did we make it?” Larson asked after bouncing off the wall twice in his run to the checkers.

“Yeah. We’re tied – a three-way tie there. We should get the tie-breaker, so we should make it,” Johnston told him.

Here are some of this week’s highlights:

“I creamed the wall. It was either that or knock the front end off of it. I chose the wall.” – Aric Almirola after avoiding contact with William Byron.
“What the [expletive] are teammates even for?” – Erik Jones after being hit from behind by Denny Hamlin
“Flat tire, bring it to me.” Chris Gayle, Jones’ crew chief
“That was some serious bull [expletive] that happened in Turn 1. That needs to be addressed on Monday.” – Jones
“We’ll address that then. Right now, the race isn’t over yet.” – Gayle
“I did not hit anything hard, then the 43 plowed into the back of me like he’s done all weekend.” – Almirola
“Hope you wreck the son of a [expletive]” – Martin Truex Jr.’s spotter after the last lap contact from Johnson
“78’s coming pretty hard man, in your mirror. He’s gonna crash you.” Johnson’s spotter

For more, watch the video above.

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Two Cup playoff teams make pit crew changes for Darlington

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DARLINGTON, S.C. – The playoff teams of Kevin Harvick and Erik Jones each will have a different pit crew lineup for Sunday’s Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

Michael Johnson will be the rear tire changer for Harvick’s team, replacing Daniel Smith this weekend. It will be Johnson’s first weekend with the team, which has won a series-high seven points races and also won the All-Star Race this season. This is the team’s second change with the pit crew this year. Shayne Pipala became the team’s front tire changer at New Hampshire in July.

Erik Jones’ pit crew has two changes this weekend. Brad Donaghy will be the team’s tire carrier, replacing Matt Ver Meer. Trey Burklin will be the team’s jackman, replacing Bailey Walker. These are the first changes to the Joe Gibbs Racing team’s pit crew this year.

“This is the time to make changes for the (playoffs) and evaluate it,” crew chief Chris Gayle told NBC Sports of the moves.

Also, the pit crew for Daniel Suarez, who is seeking to make the playoffs, will have a change. Brian Eastland will be the new front tire changer, replacing Clay Robinson on the Joe Gibbs Racing team. This is the second change of the pit crew this season for the team. Graham Molatch became the team’s jackman at Pocono in June. He replaced Burklin, who started the season as that team’s jackman.

 

 

 

NASCAR America Scan All: ‘If he wrecks everybody, he’ll win’

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Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was the center of attention last week in the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway. He was on the lips of most of the drivers in the field

After being involved in five incidents during the evening, Stenhouse was taken to task by many of the drivers and team members.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • “We’re all done. [Expletive] animals. I swear, nobody wants to ride; nobody wants to follow.” – Kurt Busch
  • “I’m gonna guess that was the 17. Wild guess.” – Denny Hamlin
  • “This is the only race Stenhouse can win to get himself in, so he was doing everything.” – Chris Gayle, spotter for Erik Jones
  • “What are these guys doing? The 17 hooked him too.” – Clint Bowyer
  • “The 17 has successfully wrecked half the field.” Mike Bugarewicz, Bowyer’s spotter
  • “He’s such a [expletive] idiot. What a [expletive] waste of [expletive] space.” – Kyle Busch
  • “This one was worse than the last one. He just drove into his rear and spun him out,” Cole Pearn, Martin Truex Jr.’s crew chief.
  • “Yep. If he wrecks everybody, he’ll win.” – Truex

For more, watch the video above.

Erik Jones looking to put together complete races for Joe Gibbs Racing

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After 15 races in his first year with Joe Gibbs Racing in the Cup Series, Erik Jones barely gives his No. 20 team a passing grade.

“I’d say our team as a whole is probably a C,” Jones told media Wednesday at Daytona International Speedway while promoting the July 7 Cup race at the track.

“I think we’ve had good race cars and had fast race cars, we just haven’t been able to finish really where we’ve ran,” Jones said. “We haven’t done a good job of that. Making sure we’re closing these races out is going to be the big thing for us. We’re bringing top 10 cars to the track every week in speed and just not taking and getting the finishes out of that.”

Following Sunday’s race at Michigan, where Jones placed 15th, the No. 20 team has one top five and five top 10s. He has one top 10 in the last eight races (Kansas, seventh)

In the last three races, Jones has failed to finish better than 15th.

Jones has started in the top 10 in four of the last seven races. In each race, he finished 13th or worse.

“Making sure we’re taking full advantage and executing on pit road and on the race track, not losing track position is going to be the big thing for us coming up,” Jones said. “Staying on that track is what we need to do.”

The next three races take Jones and the series to Sonoma Raceway, Chicagoland Speedway and Daytona. Jones made his first Sonoma start last year and placed 25th after starting 30th. His first Chicago start saw him finish 33rd after a late spin.

In three Daytona starts, he’s managed not to crash out in one, when he placed ninth in last July’s race.

Being one of the four drivers competing for JGR, Jones was asked what’s made the difference in Kyle Busch‘s dominating ways and his struggles in getting to Victory Lane for the first time.

“Obviously, we do have the same resources and equipment at our disposal, it’s just a matter of the way every team is using them,” Jones said. “You look at Kyle, he’s a very talented driver, No. 1. He’s very good at what he does. He and (crew chief) Adam (Stevens) have a good thing going on and they’re able to use the resources very well and take full advantage of them. Me and (crew chief) Chris (Gayle) are still trying to get in our groove of figuring out exactly what we need to get our cars to do to be successful week in and week out.”

Gayle and Jones were paired together during Jones’ rookie season with Furniture Row Racing.

“We’ve done a good job of putting together cars with good speed,” Jones said. “We just need to put together the rest of the package. That’s what Kyle’s done a very good job of this year. He’s qualified really well, he’s stayed up front, he’s had good pit stops and not ever put himself back in the pack and put himself in opportunities to have to gain a lot of track position. I think that’s really important this year … more than the last few years at least. They’ve done a really good job of just staying ahead of the game on that.”