NASCAR: Joe Gibbs Racing prepares for new era as 4-car team (VIDEO)

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Jimmy Makar has been with Joe Gibbs Racing in various roles since its very beginnings back in 1991. He won a Sprint Cup title in 2000 as crew chief for Bobby Labonte and saw Tony Stewart add two more titles to the team’s trophy case (2002, 2005) before becoming JGR’s senior vice president of racing operations.

He’s watched as the team has evolved from a single-car entity at the start to its new four-car squad, which will hit the track for the first time this upcoming Cup season.

But he says that JGR’s most recent expansion to include the incoming Carl Edwards has been the toughest to pull off.

“It’s been quite an ordeal,” Makar said during JGR’s press conference Monday for the NASCAR Media Tour in Charlotte, North Carolina. “It seems like to me, after going to a second team and then a third team, this fourth team is exponentially harder. Because you’ve got so many more people involved than the first team.

“We went from 17 people to 50-something people the first time around, so it wasn’t so bad. Now, we’re in the 400-500 people range, and that’s a lot more people to deal with. We had a new employee meeting and we looked around the room. The auditorium we had, there were about 100 seats…and there were people sitting on the steps.

“We filled that up plus, so it just goes to show you how much it’s grown and how much of an undertaking it is to do a fourth team.”

Adding to a busy offseason for JGR has been a major shuffle of its crew chiefs.

Darian Grubb, former crew chief for Denny Hamlin, is now with Edwards on the new No. 19 team. Kyle Busch’s former crew chief, Dave Rogers, is now running with Hamlin and the No. 11 camp. And moving up to replace Rogers on Busch’s No. 18 side is Adam Stevens, who had been Busch’s crew chief in the XFINITY Series.

Only one driver-crew chief pairing remained intact through it all – Matt Kenseth and Jason Ratcliff on the No. 20 team. However, Hamlin believes everything from the expansion to the crew chief shake-up will be worth it.

“All of those changes, the personnel changes and crew chief changes we’ve done with the organization, it’s the best move for everyone here,” he said. “A lot of the concerns that you have as a driver when you bring on an extra team is if [you’re] spreading yourself too thin. And I think JGR has done a great job of hiring really good staff over this off-season to accommodate that fourth car. For me, it makes me excited about the prospects of what JGR’s got in store for this year.”

Busch is also confident that JGR can be successful as a four-car team. He said that in addition to Edwards providing even more veteran leadership and “another bank to pull from” in finding performance on the track, JGR will benefit from the extra infrastructure as well.

“The money that’s left in order to add on the extra engineers, and the body guys, the chassis guys, and all that stuff just to build more cars and to keep up with all the demands NASCAR makes and requires for four teams – I think that’s a huge added bonus as well,” he explained.

Top Fuel driver Austin Prock earns 2019 NHRA top rookie honors

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Having just completed a promising first year in NHRA Top Fuel competition, Austin Prock is on the road to even greater drag racing success in his career.

That’s why it’s not surprising that Prock was named the winner of the 2019 Auto Club Road to the Future Award during Monday night’s annual NHRA Awards dinner at the Ray Dolby Theater in Hollywood, California.

The Road to the Future Award is NHRA’s version of Rookie of the Year, and Prock was among the brightest young stars on the circuit this past season, including winning his first national event at the Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways in suburban Seattle, the 16th race on the 24-race schedule.

What made that first win all the more sweeter is it came at the same event that his boss, legendary 16-time Funny Car champion John Force, captured his milestone 150th career win.

One month ago, Prock set a personal best run of 3.688 seconds at 334.40 mph over veteran driver Doug Kalitta in the first round of eliminations at the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals three weeks ago in Ennis, Texas (suburban Dallas).

“I am proud of the season this Montana Brand / Rocky Mountain Twist team put together,” Prock said in a media release. “My guys worked their asses off all season long to give me the opportunity to win the Auto Club Road the Future Award. I couldn’t have done it without them.

“I would have never been here without John Force and Robert Hight (president of John Force Racing). They gave me the opportunity to fulfill my dream and I owe the world to them. I hope I made them proud.”

Prock became only the 10th rookie in the history of the NHRA pro ranks to both win a race in their first season and also go on to win the Road to the Future award. He also was the 13th rookie in the sport’s history to qualify for the Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s six race playoffs.

Prock becomes the sixth John Force Racing driver to earn the Road to the Future Award, joining Tony Pedregon (1996), Hight (2005), Ashley Force-Hood (2007), Mike Neff (2008), Courtney Force (2012) and Brittany Force (2013).

Austin Prock is the son of veteran crew chief Jimmy Prock, who tuned Hight to his third career NHRA Funny Car championship this past Sunday.

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