Suarez is looking for a ride because reigning Cup champion Martin Truex Jr. and crew chief Cole Pearn are expected to move to the No. 19 team with Furniture Row Racing closing operations after this season.
That leaves Suarez on the outside at JGR.
“I don’t really have anything good to say,” Suarez said after qualifying fifth Friday. “When you don’t have anything good to say, it is better not to say anything.”
Suarez removed a reference Joe Gibbs Racing from his Twitter profile this week. Asked about that Friday, Suarez laughed and said: “I’m a driver. I like my family. I like classic cars. That’s what I put in there.”
As for where he might race next year, Suarez said: “We’re talking to a lot of people. I’m sure good things will come our way.”
Suarez was encouraged by his run Friday at Richmond Raceway and optimistic about Saturday night’s Cup race (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).
“Definitely the best car I’ve ever had here at Richmond,” he said. “So hopefully I can take advantage of it (Saturday).”
If he can, he could score his first career Cup victory.
“We know we can do it,” Suarez said. “Not making the playoffs wasn’t good for us. We had way, way higher expectations than the job that we have done. We have had a lot of different issues though the year. Sometimes things don’t work out.”
Roush schedules announcement amid Ryan Newman reports
Mutliple outlets reported that Newman will drive the No. 6 Ford next season for Roush Fenway, which recently announced that Trevor Bayne won’t return to the team. Bayne had been the full-time driver of the car since 2015 until four months ago when he began splitting the ride with Matt Kenseth, whose NASCAR future remains unclear.
Roush Fenway Racing has scheduled an announcement for 3 p.m. Saturday in the Richmond Raceway media center.
It was his first time back at the track since the Sept. 4 announcement. He plans to be at many of the remaining nine races as Martin Truex Jr. seeks a second consecutive Cup championship.
Each week, though, brings Visser closer to the end of a remarkable run in NASCAR that saw his organization start as a part-time team in Denver, elevate to full-time status, score its first win in the Southern 500, align with Toyota and Joe Gibbs Racing, expand to a second car, win the Cup title, downsize to one car and seek to repeat as champion.
Visser admits it was a hard decision — and an easy decision — to not continue the team after this season.
“You got your soul and you got your heart and you got your mind,” Visser told NBC Sports. “Two of the three are hurting, and my mind is saying you got to do this.”
The announcement in July by 5-hour Energy to leave the team and the sport after this season left Visser facing a gap of millions of dollars. With budgets already set for many companies, the likelihood of replacing 5-hour Energy’s millions with one company was slim. Visser would have to put more of his own money into the team if he wanted to continue. Then, he would need to renew deals with Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing and sign Truex to an extension.
“The family, we had all sat down and decided together that there would be a limit on what we could put in any given year,” Visser said. “We were talking about that the last couple of years. This (gap) was so far off.”
Visser’s tale could prove cautionary for the sport. He was an outsider who came into NASCAR, built his team, won races and captured a championship. There are few such success stories in Cup in recent years.
It’s not that others don’t try but they don’t have the success for various reasons. Ron Devine and a group of investors started BK Racing in 2012, ran as many as three full-time teams, but never had the success, struggled to find sponsorship, fell behind in payments on loans and to the IRS, among others, filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy before this year’s Daytona 500 and was sold for $2.08 million to Front Row Motorsports in August.
Visser, though, doesn’t think that his exit will mean the end of outsider owners coming into NASCAR. But change will need to take place, he admits.
“Hopefully they’re going to standardize the equipment more, and they’re going to find a way to maybe protect sponsors from leaving, from going with drivers and protect the teams, just some kind of standard contract, that would be good,” Visser said, although he admits such a contract “wouldn’t have saved us” with 5-hour Energy.
“There’s not going to be a shortage of drivers in this sport, there’s going to be a shortage of quality teams. We’ve got to get that figured out.”
Standing about 30 feet from Visser on Sunday was Gene Haas, co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing and also the owner of Haas F1.
He’s searching for a driver for the No. 41 car for next year and noted the importance of a driver bringing sponsorship.
Haas laments the decline in the number of teams.
“We used to have 40-50 cars showing up for some of these races and now you’re barley filling the field,” Haas told NBC Sports. “From an economic standpoint it’s not working. There’s not enough money for teams to do that.”
Can friendship carry over to the track? And should it?
The issue came up at the end of the first stage in Saturday’s Xfinity race.
Ryan Preece was two laps down after an early incident. Leader Ross Chastain, a teammate to Preece at JD Motorsports in 2016, slowed his Chip Ganassi Racing ride coming to the line to end the first stage. That allowed Preece to beat Chastain to the line and get a lap back.
I actually agree with Chastain letting Preece get one of his laps back there. Would think that will come back around to help Chastain at some point, and it cost Chastain nothing. It’s the long play.
“I was hoping,” Preece told NBC Sports that Chastain would allow him to get a lap back there. “That was something he didn’t have to do. I’m sure one day I’ll return the favor.”
Mike Shiplett, crew chief for Chastain, told his driver on the radio not to do that again.
“He was already a couple of laps down and he was torn up,” Chastain said of letting Preece get a lap back. “I’ve been on the other side of that. I wish they would just give that little bit. I know Mike wasn’t happy, and I didn’t do it again.
“I ran as hard as I could to prove a point to him that I listened to him. If I could go back, I wouldn’t change it. I would do it again. It did let the second-place car close up to us for pit road, but our guys were so fast it didn’t matter.
“It didn’t matter if it was Preece or whoever. Those are the guys that I have raced with for years and I just wanted to be nice. Be nice every now and then. It’s not going to kill you. Just give a little bit.”
Preece got back on the lead lap less than 20 laps later when there was a caution and he got the free pass. He ended up having issues later in the race and never put himself in position to challenge for the win, but the move by Chastain to allow Preece to get a lap back could have backfired.
“When he got the free pass later, I was like uh oh,” Chastain said. “I didn’t know if he was fast or what. If he comes back and beats me, I’m never going to live that down. It all worked out. I was just trying to be nice.”
When a car doesn’t have the speed to challenge the top cars, a team has to do other things to win.
Such is the case for Brad Keselowski’s No. 2 team, led by crew chief Paul Wolfe.
After each of Keselowski’s last three wins, Keselowski or Wolfe have talked about needing to find more speed. So, how have they won three races in a row?
It has helped that the Big 3 have had their issues in those races. Martin Truex Jr. was among the strongest at Darlington in the first half of the race before an uncontrolled tire put him a lap down and he didn’t get back on the lead lap until the end.
“Our car was very good on restarts, would run fast for a few laps,” Wolfe said. “I think our car had some good stability. That’s really what it comes down to those first couple laps when everyone is jammed up and you don’t have a lot of clean air is having a lot of security, and our car seemed to be able to fire off really well, and the pit crew was really flawless.”
Four times Keselowski was first off pit road, gaining positions, and a fifth time he entered pit road first and left first at Las Vegas.
At Indy, Wolfe’s pit strategy put Keselowski in position to win on a late restart because of fresher tires than Danny Hamlin.
At Darlington, Keselowski beat Kyle Larson off pit road for the lead on the final pit stop and shot out to the lead on the restart. Keselowski led the final 22 laps to win.
“We have not been the best car the last three weeks,” Keselowski said after his Las Vegas win. “This week we were probably a top‑three or ‑four car. I didn’t get to see (Kevin Harvick) before he had his issue, but I thought he was running pretty good. He was obviously in front of me at one point. And him and (Martin Truex Jr.) were very strong.
“The 78 (Truex) was clearly the best car, and we put everything together when it counted, and kind of stole it today. Same scenario the last two weeks.
“I thought (Larson) was the best car in Darlington, and we hit the strategy right and executed the last pit stop and that put us in position to win.
“And in Indy, we were nowhere near probably even a top‑10 car. We were probably a 15th‑place car, and Paul Wolfe hit the strategy right, and I hit the restart right to make all the passes when it counted and won that race. With that in mind, no, I feel like we stole the last three races. We’re not complaining, but we still have a lot of work to do to go out there and win heads up without those issues.”
It has been a rough year for the No. 60 Roush Fenway Racing Xfinity team.
Austin Cindric, Chase Briscoe and Ty Majeski have shared the ride throughout the season but last weekend’s race provided an all-too-familiar scene for that team — the car hitting the wall.
Briscoe’s crash at Las Vegas marked the 10th time in 26 races this season the No. 60 car has been eliminated by an accident.
The team has had only four top-10 finishes. Its best finish is seventh at Iowa with Ty Majeski.
Briscoe’s crash at Las Vegas was eerily reminiscent of Jeff Gordon‘s crash there in 2008 before a SAFER barrier was placed on the inside wall.
“I’m really disappointed right now in this speedway for not having a soft wall back there, and even being able to get to that part of the wall,” Gordon said after the crash. “That kind of hit shouldn’t happen. It’s just uncalled for. There’s no reason why any track should have that (kind of opening).”
“I’ve called every team owner and every sponsor that I know probably twice or three times,” Bayne told NBC Sports on Friday morning in the garage at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. “For me, all I know right now is Texas. When I get to Nov. 5 that’s the last race I have scheduled that I know. Hopeful for an opportunity, but just don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Asked if he could take sponsor Advocare with him to prospective car owners, the 27-year-old Bayne told NBC Sports: “I don’t know what they’re going to do with the sport or Roush or whatever. As it stands, when I go to these team owners and they say, ‘How much money do you have?’ I’m kind of selling myself in I think I can win races if I’m in a really good car.”
Bayne said he would be open to a ride in Cup, Xfinity or the Camping World Truck Series part-time or full-time.
“I’ve struggled and I’ve seen what it’s like to run 15th every week, and I just don’t want to do that anymore,” he told NBC Sports. “To me, if I can’t get into a race-winning car, a top-10 car or a top-five car, then I don’t want to do it just to be here. For me, any opportunity I’m looking at (is) in a really good car with a really good team and really good culture.
“I do this to win races, not to make paycheck. I think I’ve got the ability to do it. I’ve proven that anytime we have fast cars, even Bristol a couple of weeks ago. When I’m in a fast car I can get it done. That’s what I’m looking for, what I’m wanting to do. I’m also praying about it. ‘Lord, what do you want me to do? If you want me here, I need an opportunity. If you don’t want me here, make it clear.’
“I just don’t know what’s going to happen next. It’s a scary, weird feeling to think about. Am I going to be in NASCAR or not next year? For me, that is a really hard thing to swallow. I’ve always said I’m not defined by this but when you actually get to that crossroads of ‘Hey, there may not any opportunity,’ it’s a weird feeling.”
Bayne has had a star-crossed career. He became the youngest driver at age 20 years and 1 day to win the Daytona 500 when he won the 2011 race for Wood Brothers Racing. The victory came in his second career Cup start.
Without enough funding, he was only able to run a partial Cup schedule from 2011-14 for the Wood Brothers. He returned to Roush Fenway Racing — where he ran in the Xfinity Series from late in the 2010 season through 2014. He won two Xfinity races during that stretch.
An unknown illness in 2011 that year sent him to the Mayo Clinic and kept him out of the car briefly. He ran 17 Cup races that year.
His results yo-yoed as Roush Fenway Racing struggled. The team announced in April that it was hiring Matt Kenseth to drive the No. 6 in select races, replacing Bayne.
“The first four weeks were super tough on me,” Bayne said of the time after Kenseth’s hiring. “Those weeks were a lot of anger, a lot of frustration and how could this happen? This is kind of unprecedented in how it was happening. It didn’t feel like that my performance, as far as compared to how our cars ran, warranted that but it’s just what God has for me right now.”
Bayne, who has made 182 career Cup starts, has five races remaining in the No. 6 car this season — Las Vegas, the Charlotte Roval, Talladega, Kansas and Texas.
“I just want to enjoy it,” Bayne said. “I love racing and it’s not fun to struggle at the Cup level. I know I can get it done at the Cup level. That’s not the question. To me, it’s more so what is the opportunity. I look at guys like Aric Almirola or even Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano, where they were in situations and got into a good car with a good culture and took off. I know I can do that.”
No. 6: Car owner Jack Roush said Sept. 12 on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that Trevor Bayne would not be back with Roush Fenway Racing after this season. Bayne, who has shared the No. 6 ride this season with Matt Kenseth, has driven in Cup for Roush since 2015.
No. 41:Kurt Busch signed a one-year deal last December to remain at Stewart-Haas Racing. He said Aug. 31 at Darlington that he has two contract offers for 2019 but did not reveal what teams they were from. Busch said Sept. 7 he had no updates on his status.
Trevor Bayne:2011 Daytona 500 winner is looking for a ride after the Sept. 12 announcement he won’t return to Roush Fenway Racing in 2019. He told NBC Sports on Sept. 14 that he has been calling car owners looking for a ride and would look at any of NASCAR’s top three national series.
Kurt Busch: 2004 champion’s contract expires after this season with Stewart-Haas Racing.
Matt DiBenedetto: Said he was betting on himself by leaving Go Fas Racing and looking to race elsewhere. While he would like a full-time ride, he would entertain a part-time ride in the Xfinity Series with a winning team, following what Ryan Preece has done.
Daniel Hemric: The Xfinity driver for Richard Childress Racing was asked Aug. 17 at Bristol about his future and he described it as: “Cloudy, very cloudy.” He said then he has not signed anything for the 2019 season, adding: “I’m trying to do everything I can on the race track to prove to somebody that would be willing to put me in a car and give me a shot.”
Jamie McMurray: Although he has not revealed his plans, car owner Chip Ganassi told the AP that he had offered McMurray a contract for only the 2019 Daytona 500 before McMurray would move into a management role.