MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Rookie Daniel Suarez was one of many who were shocked after Joe Gibbs Racing announced his crew chief, Dave Rogers, would take a personal leave for an indefinite period of time.
“It was something that took me by surprise,” Suarez said Friday at Martinsville Speedway, saying he had no indication it was going to occur. “It was a hard week for the whole organization. Luckily, Joe Gibbs Racing is a family and we support each other really well. He’s still part of the team even though he’s not here with us right now.”
Scott Graves is now atop the pit box for Suarez and the No. 19 team Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series team. Graves has been serving as crew chief for the No. 18 NASCAR XFINITY Series team.
“I have a lot of respect for Dave,” Suarez added. “He’s a great guy. He’s a great crew chief. I know how bad he wants to be at the race track. The only thing I can do is wish him the best and I hope he comes back soon.”
Suarez admitted he also has no indication of when Rogers could potentially return to the track.
“I don’t really know myself,” Suarez said. “Dave is an amazing person. Even before I started racing with him at Daytona, I went to his house with the entire team and we had dinner. He is a great, great person. We’ve become friends.”
To make matters worse, Martinsville has not been kind to Suarez so far this weekend, destroying his No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota in opening practice Friday afternoon after backing it into the Turn 3 wall. The team was forced to pull out the backup car.
Although Suarez and everyone at JGR is feeling the void of Rogers’ absence, the young driver is fully behind Rogers’ decision.
“I really respect his decision,” Suarez said. “I can tell you he wishes he was here. I wish him the best with whatever decision he is making. I just hope he returns soon to do what he loves to do – to work at the race track.”