Rookie driver Daniel Suarez has not had a good week. The first-year Joe Gibbs Racing driver in the NASCAR Cup series scored his second top-10 finish last week at Fontana, but learned this week that his crew chief Dave Rogers is stepping down. The team made the somewhat surprising announcement Wednesday.
“It was a surprise for me as well,” Suarez said Friday at Martinsville site of Sunday’s STP 500. “I respect a lot Dave’s decision to do this and to try to take care of his personal stuff. You know, with a Cup schedule, as busy as it is, sometimes it’s difficult to do both things at the same time. I have a lot of respect for Dave. He’s a great guy, a great crew chief. I know how hard he wants to be at the racetrack. It’s pretty much what he’d been working hard his entire life and the only thing I can do is wish him the best. I hope that he comes back soon.”
The first practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series was delayed for 30 minutes Friday for rain. When cars did take to the track, the rough week for Suarez got worse. He spun hitting the Turn 3 wall hard with his No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota sustaining heavy rear damage. The team was forced to a backup.
“We had some issues in the first practice,” Suarez said. “Something that is pretty useful here, the wheel hop thing getting into the corner. I feel like, I don’t know, we had some kind of issue with the brakes. Actually, in the first run everything went okay, I didn’t wreck or anything. I called that something was weird with the brakes. Then after that went to q-trim (qualifying trim) and we wrecked in the first lap pretty much. Not very happy about that, but that’s part of racing. We moved to a backup car and we’ll start from there.”
Suarez is getting used to a new crew chief. Scott Graves has been tapped to fill in for Rogers. And for Suarez that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Suarez and Graves won the NASCAR Xfinity title together last season. Suarez said he had input on who would fill his Cup crew chief role and he knew who he wanted.
“Because I know Scott,” he said. “I know what he can do. I know what we’ve done together. It was important to put somebody there that I knew already. Really Scott is the person.”
“It was a hard week for the whole organization, but luckily Joe Gibbs Racing is a family,” he said. “Everyone supports each other very well. He’s (Rogers) still part of the team even when he’s not here with us right now. He’s still in communication with all of us.”
Rain later in the day washed out the rest of the day’s activities including qualifying. The field was set by owner’s points giving Suarez the 19th starting spot for Sunday’s race.