Ryan Pemberton

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JR Motorsports makes crew chief change for Michael Annett’s team

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JR Motorsports announced Monday that Travis Mack will take over as crew chief for Michael Annett‘s team immediately.

Annett enters this weekend’s Xfinity race at Watkins Glen International 40 points out of the last playoff spot. He is coming off a 14th-place finish last weekend at Iowa Speedway. Annett has not had a top-10 finish this season.

Mack started the season as Kasey Kahne‘s crew chief in the Cup Series for Leavine Family Racing but was relieved of his duties in June. Mack had been with Hendrick Motorsports and JR Motorsports since 2004 before moving to Leavine Family Racing. During 2014-15, Mack was the car chief on JR Motorsports’ No. 9 entry.

Mack replaces Jason Stockert, who will move to another role in the organization.

“We are constantly building toward the team’s future,” said Ryan Pemberton, JRM’s director of competition, in a statement. “At this point in the season it was time for us to evaluate where the No. 5 team was and where we wanted it to be moving forward. It became clear a change was necessary.

“I want to thank Jason for all he’s done for the organization in building the No. 5 team from the ground up. But we’re also looking forward to a new chapter with Travis. He’s a familiar face to many within the company and we’re excited to put his talents to use with Michael and the Pilot Flying J team.”

Said Mack in a statement: “I’m very grateful to be able to return to JR Motorsports. To have been here previously as car chief and now to come back as a crew chief is a tremendous opportunity. I can’t thank Dale Jr. and Kelley enough for that. I’m looking forward to getting started with the No. 5 team this weekend.”

 

JR Motorsports without main pit crews today after plane makes emergency landing

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JR Motorsports, which has three of its cars contending for a spot in the championship round, will be without “a little more than half” of its pit crew after a charter plane carrying them made an emergency landing Saturday in Arkansas.

The plane was flying from Memphis, Tennessee, to Amarillo, Texas on its way to Phoenix when it experienced an electrical issue, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The crew declared an emergency and landed without incident at 7:43 a.m. CT at Clinton National Airport in Little Rock, Arkansas, Ryan DiVita, director of marketing and sales for AeroDynamics, Inc., the plane carrier, told NBC Sports.

“The crew did exactly what they should,” DiVita said.

He said that pilots followed a checklist that the plane should land at the nearest suitable airport.

There were 51 people on the Embraer 145, according to a spokesperson at Clinton National Airport.

The plane was grounded because of the electrical issue and no other plane was available to send the passengers to Phoenix in time for Saturday’s race.

The issue comes as three of JRM’s driver – Elliott Sadler, William Byron and Justin Allgaier – are trying to advance to next week’s championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. All three of JRM’s playoff drivers enter today’s race above the cutline. Allgiaer told NBCSN he has “no concern” about the team’s pit crew situation.

“At the end of the day we have the best pit crew on pit road normally,” Allgaier said. “That’s a little disappointing that those guys aren’t here, because I do feel really confident with those guys. One thing I know is, everybody at Hendrick Motorsports, that we use their pit crews and everybody here at JR Motorsports, they rally behind adversity. I know the guys we’re going to assemble are going to be just as good. I’m looking forward to that challenge.”

JRM will have to cobble together pit crews to service the cars. NBCSN’s Marty Snider reported that JRM only had two of their regular 24 pit crew members at the track.

“We have some guys that we normally use, we have some guys that are training with HMS that are pitting other vehicles that will participate with us and we have a little bit of help from our partners in Chevrolet groups and a few other teams that have a few guys here that are willing to assist us,” said Ryan Pemberton, Jr. Motorsports’ director of competition. “We’re still working through who’s on first and what’s on second, it’s kind of like that routine right now. As far as enough people to do it, we have … enough people to put the show on.”

A Hendrick plane took off from Phoenix for Clinton National Airport in Little Rock, Arkansas, at 12:45 p.m. ET to pick up the crews. There were members of other Cup teams that were on the flight that landed in Arkansas.

Following the race, team co-owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. was asked why the team didn’t bring its pit crews to the track on Friday.

“It’s probably an expense issue as far as hotel room and so forth,” Earnhardt said. “There’s planes that fly up here that are on a schedule that don’t abide by our schedule. We have to abide by theirs. We take the opportunity to get here or they take the opportunity to get here when they can. We can’t control … those people. We sort of take the opportunity when we can to get there.”

JD Motorsports crew members were also on the flight. After Brennan Poole was eliminated from the race in a crash, members of Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 48 team helped pit one of JDM’s cars.

Dustin Long contributed to this report in Arizona.

Elliott Sadler will race for Xfinity championship minus crew chief

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AVONDALE, Ariz. – NASCAR will suspend Kevin Meendering, crew chief for Elliott Sadler, for next weekend’s championship race because Sadler’s car had two loose lug nuts after Saturday night’s race at Phoenix International Raceway.

The penalty for two loose lug nuts (out of 20 on the car)  is that the crew chief is suspended for one race and is fined $10,000.

This is the second consecutive weekend the team has had at least one loose lug nut after the race. Meendering was fined $5,000 last weekend for having one lug nut loose after the Texas race.

Scott Miller, NASCAR vice president of competition, told NBC Sports that inspectors found two lug nuts not secure against the wheel Saturday night. The rule states that the lug nuts must be safe and secure against the wheel.

Sadler said he’s unsure who will be his crew chief at this point. Former crew chief Ryan Pemberton is JR Motorsports’ director of competition and would be a likely choice. He was last a crew chief in 2014 for the team with Regan Smith.

“It’s going to be tough,” Sadler said of losing Meendering for the title race. “No driver wants to go to Homestead with a chance of legitimately winning a championship and not have your right-hand man sidekick there with you, but we still have a chance to win it so we can’t count ourselves out of it.”