Pit Crews Swap As Playoffs Begin

Logan Whitton / Harrelson Photography Inc.

By Caleb Whisler, Staff Writer

On Tuesday, Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) announced that the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup pit crews of the No. 18, piloted by Kyle Busch, and the No. 19, piloted by Daniel Suarez, will be swapped beginning this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway as the NASCAR Playoffs begin.

Swapping pit crews is something that is not new to NASCAR when it comes to playoff time. The last time this happened was in 2014 with Kevin Harvick, as he went on to his first career championship.

A pit crew can either win or lose someone a championship. Being in a performance based industry, JGR felt is was the right time.

“Well, when you’re in a performance‑based business, it comes down to performance. For us and Joe Gibbs Racing, everybody on the whole organization kind of decided that it was a necessary change to give ourselves the best opportunity to go race for a championship. You got to come out here with all these guys,” said Busch. “All these teams, as good as they are, you have to have all the bullets in the chamber. We felt like we were a little bit short there with the pit crew. We got metrics and things like that that kind of show they were a little bit off, not far, but just a little bit. When you need it most, you’re going to need to count on those guys. That could be the last stop at Homestead. Fastest pit crew wins hopefully.”

During his time at JGR, Matt Kenseth has not seen the organization switch pit crews often, but sees it as necessary considering the performance of the pit crews.

“We’ve never really done that. Actually I’ve never really seen them do that at JGR before this year. I think mainly with Daniel (Suárez) being out, Kyle (Busch) having one of the strongest cars, he’s been the fastest of the group at JGR lately. They’ve been kind of struggling, inconsistent on pit road. Really it’s just an over‑the‑wall switch,” said Kenseth. “The 19 guys, especially last year’s, has been unbelievably fast. So I think they’re just switching that. So competitive right now, they’re just trying to give Kyle every edge they can because he is in the Playoffs.”

Denny Hamlin feels that the move was to provide more consistency for the No. 18 team.

“No, our pit crew’s pretty good and solid. I think you always try to put the best people out there that you possibly can. I think that the 18 is a good pit crew, but I think they struggled with consistency like the 19 has had, so they made a change for that reason,” said Hamlin.

With three out of the four cars in the JGR stable making the playoffs, the organization is looking for its fifth championship in the Cup Series since its inception in 1992.

Roush-Fenway Racing confirmed to Kickin’ The Tires that there was indeed a pit crew swap between Trevor Bayne and Ricky Stenhouse Jr for the playoffs. NBC Sports first reported the story.

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