Mike Bumgarner

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Elliott Sadler’s substitute crew chief will ‘lean heavily’ on veteran driver in Xfinity title race

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In the biggest race of Elliott Sadler‘s NASCAR career, the driver will have a new voice talking to him over the radio during the Ford EcoBoost 300 on NBCSN.

After the one-race suspension of crew chief Kevin Meendering for a lug nut violation, Sadler will be working with Mike Bumgarner in the Xfinity Series season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Bumgarner, JR Motorsports’ race operations manager, will be crew chiefing his first race since 2014.

“I think having someone like Elliott Sadler alone speaks for itself,” Bumgarner said in teleconference Wednesday. “I’ll lean heavily on Elliott. He’s the leader of this team as well as Kevin, and these guys have worked really hard the last few days to set forth a plan to move forward to Homestead and have a shot to win this championship.”

Bumgarner steps into the role after Sadler joked at Phoenix International Raceway that team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. would be his crew chief.

“It would have definitely made it easier on me,” said Bumgarner with a laugh. “I would have much rather just went down there and sat back and watched.”

A 22-year NASCAR veteran, Bumgarner joined JR Motorsports in 2013 as a crew chief for Kasey Kahne and Brad Sweet on the No. 5 car. In 2014, he transitioned into the race operations manager position.

On Saturday he will try to finish the job Meendering started, giving Sadler, a 21-year veteran of NASCAR racing, his first championship. The No. 1 team enters Homestead with three wins, 13 top fives and 28 top 10s.

“I don’t see much of a challenge from my side,” Bumgarner said. “Kevin has a good group of guys, and these guys know what their role is played … It’s just more or less for me just to guide these guys along and answer any questions and try to do my best at calling a good race and getting Elliott in and off pit road. I think that’s probably the biggest task.”

Navigating pit road will also involve communicating with Sadler’s spotter, Brett Griffin.

“(Sadler) and Brett, they have a good combination as far as speaking and talking together, and I think that is going to make it easy,” Bumgarner said. “Elliott knows what he needs to do with the race car. These guys, they’ve shown on paper or speed charts as the week goes on every week, they progressively get better as the week goes, and I think that’s due to all the roles that Kevin has set aside as far as his guys and Elliott.”

JR Motorsports announces interim crew chief for Elliott Sadler

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Mike Bumgarner will serve as Elliott Sadler‘s crew chief for Saturday’s championship Xfinity race in Miami, JR Motorsports announced Tuesday.

Bumgarner, who is JR Motorsports’ race operations manager, will fill in for Kevin Meendering as Meendering serves a one-race suspension after two lug nuts were found unsecured on Sadler’s car last weekend at Phoenix.

“We let Kevin ultimately make this decision because it’s his team,” said general manager Kelley Earnhardt Miller in a statement. “Kevin chose Mike to sit in the crew chief’s seat and for good reason – he is experienced atop the pit box and very dependable. We have a great deal of confidence in Mike to give Elliott his best opportunity to win on Saturday.”

Bumgarner has spent 22 years in the sport, including 18 at Hendrick Motorsports. In 2007, he was Kyle Busch‘s crew chief at Hendrick Motorsports. They won four races and three poles. Bumgarner has been at JR Motorsports since 2013. He served as crew chief for Kasey Kahne and Brad Sweet in 2013 and moved to overseeing race operations the following season.

Sadler is competing against JR Motorsports teammate Justin Allgaier and Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez for the Xfinity title. That race airs Saturday on NBCSN with coverage beginning at 3 p.m. ET.