Despite elimination, Kyle Busch’s crew chief says Chase format is fair

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A 26-point cushion going into Sunday’s Contender Round elimination race at Talladega Superspeedway was not enough to keep Kyle Busch in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

A crash at Lap 102 collected Busch at the back of the pack and effectively ruined what had been a strong post-season for “Rowdy.” Going into ‘Dega, he’d rattled off five Top-10s in five Chase races and Top-5s in the last two.

But Busch’s 40th-place finish on Sunday dropped him seven points behind the cutoff for the Eliminator Round. It’s a tough way to go out, but his crew chief, Dave Rogers – who spoke to the media while Busch made no comments himself following the race – says there’s no point in complaining about the new Chase format that placed the unpredictable ‘Dega as the second of three cut races.

“It’s a fair format because they give us the rules before the Daytona 500,” Rogers said. “They told us what the rules were and we all signed up the play. I love this game and I love playing this sport. They can change the rules every year and the points format — that’s none of my business.

“I just have to read the rules and try to perform at our best according to them. I’m bitter and I’m discouraged, but I’m not going to sit here and say it’s unfair. The rules are the rules — they didn’t change them halfway through Talladega. Nothing to complain about there.”

And just as Rogers accepts the format, he also accepts that things can change instantly at NASCAR’s wildest speedway.

“It’s not a shock [not to advance] — you’re just here at Talladega and you know things can happen,” he said. “It happens. It’s not a shock, but on the other hand, it’s by no means an indication of what this race team is about.”

The championship may be out of reach, but Rogers, Busch and the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing camp can prove what they’re about by doing well in the final four races of the season.

It’s a stretch that Rogers looks forward to running with Busch, who he says has stepped up as a leader for the team during the post-season even as things haven’t always gone their way.

“We’ve had a couple things go against us — getting the nose knocked off at Loudon, today, and Kyle’s done a really good job of biting his lip and just backing the race team to let us do our job,” he said.

“Kyle, I can’t say enough good about him. I’m really proud of him. It’s been a lot of fun working with him and we’re not done yet. We can’t win the championship, but we can still advance in points and work our way up to fifth. We’re going to go to Martinsville working hard and we’re going to try to win all these races.”

Jo Shimoda joins Seth Hammaker, Austin Forkner on injured list; Musquin remains out

Shimoda injured
Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media
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Bad news continues to come out of the Monster Energy / Pro Circuit Kawasaki team as they announced Jo Shimoda injured his shoulder in a practice session and will not mount up when the Monster Energy Supercross 250 East division opens in Houston, Texas on February 4. A timetable has not been given for Shimoda’s return, but a press release from the team references multiple weeks.

“I’m doing my best to focus forward on my return to racing,” said Shimoda in the release. “Our goal was to compete for the 250 Supercross Eastern Regional Championship and I know we had been doing the right work to make that happen. Unfortunately, this crash will cause me to miss the start of the season, but I still aim to be back on the track racing for wins before the end of Supercross.”

Shimoda is joined on the sidelines by teammates Seth Hammaker and Austin Forkner, who also suffered injuries in recent weeks.

The news of Hammaker’s sidelining came just two days ago. His wrist injury is sufficient to require surgery, so he too will miss multiple weeks. Hammaker was scheduled to compete in the 250 East division alongside Shimoda.

Forkner was involved in a Lap 1 crash in the 250 West season opener at Anaheim. Multiple injuries, including an ACL tear, will sideline him for the remainder of the season. He described the injury and its aftermath on Instagram.

Forkner will be relieved by Carson Mumford, but not before that rider’s wrist has healed sufficiently. He is scheduled to debut with Kawasaki in Oakland for the rescheduled Round 2 Supercross race on February 18.

Shimoda finished fourth in the 2022 Supercross 250 West division and was second in 2021 points in 250 East. In 2021, Shimoda won his first Supercross race at Salt Lake City. Last year, he scored one podium and six top-fives in nine starts.

Shimoda finished second in last year’s outdoor Lucas Oil Pro Motocross season, where he added two more SuperMotocross wins including the Unadilla Nationals that kicked off a four-race streak of first- or second-place results.

Kawasaki is not the only team facing injury. Red Bull KTM initially reported Marvin Musquin would be out for the San Diego round with a wrist injury and “maybe more”. This week it was announced he will miss this week’s Triple Crown race in Anaheim and “at least the next several rounds.”