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Gibbs 'thrilled' after Suarez wins title
Joe Gibbs speaks about the progress of the No. 19 team since Daniel Suarez joined two years ago.
Despite team changes, Kenseth remains focused for '17
His car chief has departed and his over-the-wall crew is expected to have a slightly different look for the upcoming season. The rules package will be new and there's another team in the Huntersville, North Carolina, to Denver, Colorado, pipeline. But don't expect Matt Kenseth , driver of the No. 20 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing in NASCAR's premier series, to fret about the alterations to the racing landscape. "Worry never gets anything fixed or makes anything better," Kenseth said. He has rolled with the changes in the past, during a lengthy 13-year career at Roush Fenway Racing and the previous four at JGR. Rule changes, personnel moves, team expansion and contraction, Kenseth has seen it all before, adapting as best he can while seldom falling out of contention. "Nobody does a perfect job at this but I've gotten better through the years," Kenseth said. "I focus pretty hard on not worrying about things that I can't control because worrying never helps. Everybody worries to a certain extent. I try not to because it's not productive." JGR added a fourth team in 2015, bringing Carl Edwards into the fold to join Kenseth and te ammates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch . A technical and engineering alliance with Furniture Row Racing was undertaken for 2016. That alliance has since expanded -- Furniture Row will add a second team for 20-year-old Erik Jones to go along with that of driver Martin Truex Jr . for the 2017 season. "We've definitely been expanding fast and there are definitely concerns that come with that," Kenseth said. "But there are also benefits too. We learned a lot from Martin and Cole (Pearn, crew chief) this year." In the meantime, the clock is ticking. At 44 and with the future of one-time teammate Greg Biffle undetermined, Kenseth has inherited, temporarily at least, the title of the series' oldest full-time competitor. His career starts mark of 614 is now tops among active drivers; his 38 wins rank 20th overall and he is tied for No. 2 among those currently competing. The 2017 season will be his 18th as a full-time racer at NASCAR's top level. He has finished as high as second on two occasions, in 2006 and '13, but hasn't made it to the final round under the current elimination-style format since its debut in '14. It's been more than a decade since Kenseth won NASCAR's top prize and each season that passes represents another opportunity lost. "I think after you win one you look at it like that," he said. "But certainly as you get older you realize that 'OK, one more passed by and there's not as many (opportunities) in front of me.' "When you're 33 or whatever, you don't really think like that. …" The future might look a bit grim if Kenseth and his team, under the guidance of crew chief Jason Ratcliff, had been struggling. But that hasn't been the case. Only three other drivers -- Jimmie Johnson (20 wins), Kevin Harvick (16) and Joey Logano (15) have won more races since Kenseth packed his bags and headed to JGR in 2013. Kenseth and Busch are next in line with 14 victories each. A new season will bring with it new opportunities. And change. Car chief Jeff Meendering has moved on to become crew chief for a new XFINITY Series team fielded by Stewart-Haas Racing . The race-day pit crew changes have yet to be determined. Aero package updates and other matters await. Kenseth has seen it before. "I think I've done a good job of keeping it in perspective," he said. "There are a lot of things you can control. And a lot you just can't." &amp;lt;/p&amp;gt;
BK Racing shuffle: Ragan, DiBenedetto won't return
BK Racing will have a significant overhaul to its driver lineup for 2017 with announcements on consecutive days that primary drivers David Ragan and Matt DiBenedetto would not return to the team next season. DiBenedetto, touting the promise of an exciting announcement in the future, announced Thursday night on Twitter that he would not return to the Charlotte-based team. Ragan's departure was the next bit of news, with the Ron Devine-owned organization confirming that transition Friday afternoon. I've decided to go in a different direction next year. Exciting announcements coming soon. It's been a great ride @BKRacing_2383 Thank you! — Matthew DiBenedetto (@mattdracing) December 8, 2016 In two years with the organization, DiBenedetto logged 68 starts with one top-10 finish. That finish, in April 2016 at Bristol, was a sixth-place result -- he finished one spot ahead of 2014 champion Kevin Harvick -- and resulted in an emotional, memorable on-air interview. "I can only say so much at this time," DiBenedetto said Thursday night on SiriusXM Radio. "I've been in talks with BK, and no hard feelings. I'm appreciative of everything they've given me. … Just kind of evaluating the team situation for next year. From my end there's a little too much unknown, so I just had to make that decision. I'm excited about what the future has to hold here still, and obviously everyone will have to stay tuned." Devine confirmed DiBenedetto's parting through a statement released later Thursday evening. "Our 33rd- and 34th-place finishes this year did not produce the results we were hoping to achieve," Devine said. "I am, however, very proud of Matt DiBenedetto and his many accomplishments over the past two years. He is a wonderful driver and a special person. I am confident that Matt will go on to be a very successful NASCAR driver, and I believe it is the right time to release him so that he can pursue other opportunities. "Myself and everyone at BK Racing wishes Matt all the best in his future endeavors. I am looking forward to much success for both Matt and BK Racing ." Devine struck a similar tone in his statement on Ragan's release, hinting at measures to better its results next season. " BK Racing has agreed not to renew David Ragan 's contract for next year," Devine said. "Everyone wishes David the best of luck in his career. BK Racing will continue to restructure as an ongoing effort to improve our on-track performance ... and we will be announcing our 2017 driver lineup in the near future." DiBenedetto and Ragan were the primary drivers for BK Racing in 2016, but the organization also fielded Toyotas in spot duty for Jeffrey Earnhardt , Ryan Ellis , Dylan Lupton , Robert Richardson Jr., and Michael Waltrip. The team has been full time in NASCAR's premier series since 2012, when it debuted as a two-car outfit with drivers Landon Cassill and Travis Kvapil . Ragan, 31, has two victories in NASCAR's top division since he began full-time competition in 2007. He won at Daytona International Speedway driving for Roush Fenway Racing in July 2011 and handed Front Row Motorsports its first victory at Talladega Superspeedway in May 2013. Ragan finished 33rd in the final standings in his only season for BK Racing . His most recent top-10 finish was in March 2015 in a fill-in role for the injured Kyle Busch in Joe Gibbs Racing 's No. 18 Toyota. DiBenedetto missed one race in 2016, at Texas Motor Speedway in November, after not being medically cleared following a wreck in the NASCAR XFINITY Series the day prior. He was cleared from concussion protocol in time for the next race. DiBenedetto, 25, also has 68 career starts in the XFINITY Series. &amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;gt;
Cain: Joe Gibbs Racing Chase strategy may change at Texas
FORT WORTH -- We get the concept. It's the embrace that feels a little tricky. After the race at Talladega Superspeedway two weeks ago, Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Carl Edwards , Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch emerged from their Toyotas feeling "good" about a mid-pack bumper-to-bumper-to-bumper finish that neither helped nor hurt their points standings to advance in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship. It was a well-executed survival gamble. Their JGR teammate, Denny Hamlin , however, was left on his own to race his heart out at NASCAR's biggest track in hopes of earning a spot into the Chase's Round of 8. He did, but only by virtue of besting a tiebreaker thanks to his third-place finish. Last week, the JGR train used a similar format, sticking together nose-to-tail at Martinsville Speedway -- NASCAR's smallest track -- and finishing third through fifth. In both instances, during post-race interviews on pit road -- depending on which JGR driver you were talking to -- they were up to code on praising team orders. But their facial expressions perhaps revealed a little something else. Granted, at Talladega, it's as nerve-wracking to run at the rear of the field as it is to get into the winner's mix. So it was as much a gamble to run together far away from the front as it was to navigate forward. At Martinsville, there appeared to be potential for a different scenario than the Gibbs freight train, but again it successfully took the checkered flag in title contention. The Gibbs team didn't win at either venue, however. So, now that strategy of playing it safe and bonding together has also fundamentally altered the title hopes of at least one member of the four-car JGR contingent, as three championship bids now remain open. Four drivers move forward to decide the trophy at Homestead-Miami Speedway and Sunday's winner at Martinsville, six-time champ Jimmie Johnson , has earned one of those positions. RELATED: JGR denied in quest for Championship 4 sweep Three JGR cars -- Hamlin, Kenseth and Busch -- are ranked second to fourth in the standings. Edwards finished 36th at Martinsville, suffering from a tire problem, and will essentially need to win at Texas this week or at Phoenix next week to earn a championship chance. It will be an interesting subplot to see how JGR strategizes as the series heads to the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway this weekend. Will it continue to expect its four drivers to team up, or will this virtual team restrictor plate come off? Credit goes to the four for so obediently following team orders and thinking about the good of the whole versus the glory of the individual. But playing it safe only goes so far now. All the teammates enthusiastically praised the way they ran at Talladega, even Hamlin who was essentially left to fend for himself. However, Sunday at Martinsville, it appeared that the strategy was wearing a little thinner. Hamlin again led JGR's third-through-fifth place contingent, followed by Kenseth and Busch. And it didn't take a certified psychologist to dissect the post-race vibe. Certainly, reigning Cup champion Busch let on that the team's strategy was perhaps a bit troublesome at Martinsville -- even if he wouldn't just come right out and declare that it's time for every man to fend for himself. "You can't wreck each other and that's all there is to it I guess," Busch said. "We worked so good together that we gave the 48 ( Jimmie Johnson ) car the win today. "That's how good JGR is." There have been arguments made that the JGR pack racing "works" at Talladega because of the nature of restrictor plate pack racing. And obviously, it was effective -- even if if didn't result in a win -- at Martinsville last week. But the Texas high banks present different challenges. And as the opportunity to secure a championship bid diminishes with each race, the JGR drivers may understandably feel more selfish in their pursuit. "I don't think it changes a whole lot, honestly," Hamlin said. "I think that we each still have a shot, there's just one spot taken, so three of us would still be a good number to get in that final group and we'll do everything we can to get that done." It may well be the ultimate Texas Two-Step and it's just a question of who will dance.
Vote for Kenseth/Ratcliff, '16? Joe Gibbs Racing offers options
Hey you -- feeling any anxiety about casting your vote in the 2016 presidential election? Not sure which direction to go? Don't fret, people of America. Joe Gibbs Racing is here to offer the undecided voter some new options just in time for Tuesday's big decision. In case you need some write-in options for #ElectionDay ... we have some suggestions #TheChase pic.twitter.com/33QXwppC3a — Jess Rohlik (@JessicaLRohlik) November 8, 2016 We're NASCAR.com and we approve this message.
Analysis: Joe Gibbs , Bill Belichick cut from same competitive cloth
RELATED: Full race results " Chase Grid BRUCE: About that JGR strategy ... " NASCAR: JGR did not violate rules Love it. Hate it. Understand it. Disagree with it. The strategy play by Joe Gibbs to have three of his four cars -- the three that were in solid shape based on points of Kyle Busch , Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth -- ride around in the back for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Round of 12 finale at Talladega Superspeedway to avoid any potential calamity has brought out a variety of opinions. Denny Hamlin , who needed a strong finish to advance, spent most of the day at the front without the benefit of his teammates drafting with him. Hamlin finished third and advanced to the Round of 8 on a tiebreaker over Austin Dillon . That propelled all four JGR cars into the Round of 8, just as mastermind Joe Gibbs drew it up. Was it cunning? Sure. Was it gamesmanship? Yes. Was it risky? Potentially. Was it within the rules? Absolutely.
Joe Gibbs Racing changes pit crew coach
Joe Gibbs Racing changed its pit crew coach Wednesday, transitioning longtime coach Mike Lepp to the role of senior athletic adviser and placing Matt Osborn in charge of pit crew operations. Lepp joined JGR at the beginning of 2007, and over the past few years, the JGR pit crews have been the ones to beat. Lepp has amassed more than 113 wins in the NASCAR Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series, combined, as well as other awards. He was part of a Sprint Cup championship with the No. 18 team of Kyle Busch last year and was involved in winning multiple XFINITY Series titles. Lepp has played a major role in bringing the JGR teams to the forefront of the pitting world and has two pit crew championships to his credit, with back-to-back wins in 2010 and 2011 with the No. 11 crew of Denny Hamlin . Over the last nine years, the Nos. 11 and 18 crews have been dominant. One of Lepp's most recent accomplishments was assembling the No. 19 crew of Carl Edwards . That pit crew has been a top-three unit since it started with JGR. With his new job, Lepp will assume an increased role in marketing and public relations duties, including public speaking events and actively searching for sponsorship opportunities. "This is the right time for me to make a change and I'm excited about my new role in the organization," Lepp said in a team release. "I'm proud of what we've accomplished on pit road and I know Matt will continue to do a great job going forward." For more pit crew news, visit PitTalks.com .
Kenseth thankful for successful 2016 season
Matt Kenseth speaks on another successful season with Joe Gibbs Racing at the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Awards Banquet.
Daniel Suarez returns home to Mexico a champion
RELATED: ENTRY LIST " SCHEDULE Fresh off his 2016 NASCAR XFINITY Series championship, Daniel Suarez will make his highly anticipated return to Mexico this weekend in the very place his NASCAR career began -- the NASCAR PEAK Mexico Series. The Monterrey native will serve as honorary grand marshal for the series’ exhibition race Sunday at Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in Mexico City, site of Suarez’s first NASCAR Peak Mexico Series win in 2012. After a year’s hiatus, Mexico’s national stock car championship series will be back on track in 2017 with a full race schedule. The series will celebrate its 10th season with its first year of a multi-year agreement with PEAK as its entitlement sponsor. To get ramped up for the return, the series will compete this weekend in the country’s capital. Nearly 30 drivers have registered for the event, which will be run in two 70-lap segments. Each segment will include a 50-minute time limit. Teams will be allowed to make adjustments in the intermission, and the top 10 positions will be inverted for the second segment. Practice and qualifying will be Saturday. The race is slated to include past champions Abraham Calderón (2014), Rodrigo Peralta (2013), Jorge Goeters (2005, 2012) and Rafael Martinez (2007). Martinez was the first Mexico Series champion under the NASCAR banner. Suarez finished third in the championship in 2012, and was runner-up in 2013 -- missing out on the title by just eight points. Suarez was part of the inaugural NASCAR Next class in 2011, the industry initiative that spotlights the sport’s rising young stars. Three of Suarez’s 10 series wins took place at Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez, which was named after legendary Formula One driver and one of the earliest Hispanic NASCAR drivers, Pedro Rodriguez. Suarez also notched 25 top-five finishes in 58 races over his four seasons competing in the Mexico Series. He moved up to the NASCAR K&N Pro Series, where he won three times driving for Rev Racing and the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program. On November 19, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver became the sport’s first foreign-born national series champion, beating out Elliott Sadler , Justin Allgaier and Erik Jones in the inaugural NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase by virtue of his victory in the series finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway .
Top pit crews of 2016 as voted on by coaches
RELATED: Mechanix Wear Most Valuable Pit Crew When we decided to start the All Pit Road Team five years ago we wanted to make it as legit as possible. In the past, we had crew members vote on who they thought were the best of the best. This year we changed it up a bit and sent out a ballot to each organization and had one coach's ballot turned back in from each organization. We had a great response from the coaches, and below are the crewmen who were selected. Just like last year, only members of the 16 Chase pit crews were eligible for the awards. If there was a tie in voting, the crewman whose team finished highest in the points won. Front Tire Changer First Team: No. 41 Shane Pipala (5) Second Team: No. 2 Hunter Masling (5) Third Team: No. 11 Dustin Necaise (4) Honorable Mention: No. 19 Clay Robinson (3) Front Tire Carrier First Team: No. 19 Kevin Harris (4) Second Team: No. 22 Dylan Dowell (3) Third Team: No. 11 Brandon Pegram (3) Honorable Mention: No. 2 Jeremy Ogles (3) Jackman First Team: No. 22 Ray Gallahan (4) Second Team: No. 11 Nate Bolling (4) Third Team: No. 42 Graham Molatch (4) Honorable Mention: No. 41 Sean Cotten (3) Rear Tire Changer First Team: No. 11 Mike Hicks (7) Second Team: No. 22 Zach Price (4) Third Team: No. 18 Jake Seminara (4) Honorable Mention: No. 19 Kip Wolfmeir (3) Rear Tire Carrier First Team: No. 11 Heath Cherry (4) Second Team: No. 19 Matt Ver Meer (3) Third Team: No. 20 Blake Haugland (3) Honorable Mention: No. 41 Dwayne Moore (3) Gasman First Team: No. 11 Caleb Hurd (4) Second Team: No. 22 Kellen Mills (2) Third Team: No. 18 Tom Lampe (2) Honorable Mention: No. 41 Justin Wilson (2) Pit Crew of the year (Voted on by pit crew coaches) Joey Logano , Team Penske No. 22 (5) Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 (4) Kurt Busch , Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 (4) Mechanix Wear Pit Crew of the Year (Voted on by crew chiefs) Jimmie Johnson , Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 For more pit crew news, visit PitTalks.com.