News Analysis: Daniel Suarez moves to Stewart-Haas Racing’s No. 41 car

What happened: The Daniel Suarez and Stewart-Haas Racing marriage was finally made official Monday after a lengthy period of negotiation and speculation. Suarez lost his ride at Joe Gibbs Racing when Martin Truex Jr. moved to the 19 car following Furniture Row Racing’s shutdown. Meanwhile, SHR had an open seat in its No. 41 car after Kurt Busch and sponsor Monster left for Chip Ganassi Racing. It apparently took months to finalize the sponsorship details with Arris, but Suarez and SHR are now moving forward. Haas Automation — the machine tools company of SHR co-owner Gene Haas — was listed as the sponsor ahead of Arris, and the photo distributed in the team’s news release has Suarez in a black Haas firesuit.

Photo: HHP/Harold Hinson

What it means: A lot went on behind the scenes on the business side, from Arris leaving JGR to Suarez bringing enough sponsorship with him to get the ride. Gene Haas, who has most of the input on the No. 41 car, told NBC Sports in September about the possibility of signing Suarez: “We’ve talked to him. He brings a different group of sponsors. Like anything else, it comes down to the bottom line. How much sponsorship are we talking? How much money does SHR get? How much money does the driver get? Those are the kind of typical things that can take awhile to iron out because everybody wants everything.” Clearly, he wasn’t kidding about the “awhile” part, as it’s now less than six weeks until the Daytona 500. But that’s how business is done in NASCAR these days, as sponsorship is much more complex than companies just slapping their names on the hood.

News value (scale of 1-10): Four. Being a ride with one of the top teams in NASCAR saves it from being lower. But everyone figured this was coming for soooo long that it’s not surprising — therefore the actual “news” part is lower than average.

Three questions: Can Suarez really pull a Joey Logano and break through for wins after leaving JGR? Will Suarez finish higher or lower than Busch’s No. 1 car at Ganassi this season? Haas has said it takes $20 million to run a good Cup team without the driver salary included — so how much money were Suarez’s backers ultimately able to bring in order to secure the ride over other potential candidates?

12 Questions with Daniel Suarez (2018)

(Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

The series of 12 Questions interviews continues this week with Daniel Suarez of Joe Gibbs Racing. Suarez must win at Indianapolis on Sunday in order to earn a playoff bid for this season. These interviews are recorded as a podcast but are also transcribed for those who prefer to read.

1. How often do you have dreams about racing?

First of all, I don’t have dreams very often for whatever reason. When I’m sleeping, I’m sleeping. But (it happens) when I’m thinking too much about something — like Pocono (when he had a shot to win), for example. After Pocono, I spent days thinking about what I could have done different on that restart, and one of those nights I was dreaming about it.

So for whatever reason when you start thinking a lot about something, you just happen to dream something related.

2. If you get into someone during a race — intentional or not — does it matter if you apologize?

I think it does. At least it does for me. I feel like as a driver, we race so often, so there’s always a comeback.

My mom makes fun of me that I don’t remember a lot of things she says to me, but when it comes to racing, I remember exactly everything. Like what the car was doing or who hit me or who was too aggressive toward me. So eventually, it turns around. We always remember that.

I feel like it’s always good if you did something wrong to apologize and move on. That’s the way I like to do things. It shows respect. But there’s always a line — sometimes the apology is not enough. So you still have that payback in the future.

3. What is the biggest compliment someone could give you?

For me, the biggest compliment I’ve had is I have a good personality. That’s what I like to hear, that I have a good personality and I’m smiling and stuff like that. Because at the end of the day, that’s not related to racing — that’s something on the side of it.

4. NASCAR comes to you and says they’re bringing a celebrity to the track and they want you to host them. Who is a celebrity you’d be excited to host?

You know, it would be awesome to have a race car driver like Fernando Alonso or somebody on that level so they can get involved with this sport. I’ve had some friends who have come to NASCAR (and raced), like Nelson Piquet — he’s been racing everything and he knows how difficult stock car racing is. So it would be awesome to have Fernando. He’s a great guy and he’s very competitive. I wouldn’t be surprised if someday someone brings him to the racetrack and he gets that itch to try it out.

5. In an effort to show this is a health conscious sport, NASCAR decides to offer the No. 1 pit stall for an upcoming race to the first driver willing to go vegan for one month. Would you do it?

No, man. (Laughs) I love chicken too much. I think I had chicken like how many times yesterday? Two times? No, that’s wrong — three times! And my sushi. Yeah, I think that’s enough to qualify well and still be close to Pit Stall 1.

6. It’s time for the Random Race Challenge. I’ve picked a random race from your career and you have to tell me where you finished. This is the NASCAR Mexico Series — the 2012 race at Aguascalientes. Do you happen to remember that one at all?

Let me think. I was always fast at Aguascalientes. Maybe second or third?

You finished second. You started on the pole, led 44 laps and Ruben Rovelo won the race.

I remember part of it. I was leading the race in the last restart and I missed a shift and I stacked up the whole line. He wasn’t even on the front row.

I had an agreement with second place that I was going to restart on the outside and he was going to let me in. And the guy who was on the inside, he just held to the agreement too long — because I missed a shift and he was waiting for me! We passed the start/finish line and Ruben made it three-wide. I went to third, and then I passed second place and at the checkered I was right on the bumper (of the winner).

7. Who is the best rapper alive?

Maybe Eminem. I don’t follow rap a lot, but I think he’s funny.

8. Who has the most punchable face in NASCAR?

Punchable? Like to go hit them?

It could either be you want to punch them in the face or their face just looks like…

… Like it could take it? (Laughs) I think I can hit Ryan Newman and he wouldn’t even feel it. (Laughs)

9. NASCAR enlists three famous Americans to be involved with your team for one race as part of a publicity push: Taylor Swift, LeBron James and Tom Hanks. Choose one to be your crew chief, one to be your spotter and one to be your motorhome driver.

OK, LeBron is the crew chief. Tom Hanks can be the motorhome driver. I personally think the spotter is extremely important, but if it’s an easy race, you can do without it. So we’ll put Taylor there.

10. What is the key to finding the best pre-race bathroom?

Oh man. You ask your PR guy maybe 30 minutes before. For some reason, all the PR guys know as a driver, every time after driver intros, you’re looking for a bathroom. Because you have to do it. It seems to me every time I ask, “Hey, Tyler (Overstreet) — where is the nearest bathroom?” He knows it. But most of the time, we have to wait a little bit because there’s a line of drivers. Everyone is there.

11. NASCAR decides they miss the highlight reel value brought by Carl Edwards’ backflips and want a replacement. How much money would they have to offer for you to backflip off your car following your next win?

I don’t think they would have to pay me anything, man. I would love to do it. I’d just have to train for it. If you can guarantee me I won’t get hurt training for it, I would do it.

After seeing you at the Winter Olympic training last year and your workout videos, I feel like you’d be able to do it.

I honestly think I’d be able to get it done, but it takes training. More than being strong, it takes technique. And to develop that technique, you make mistakes. I can’t afford to get hurt. So that’s why I say if you can guarantee me I wouldn’t get hurt, I would do it. That would be a lot of fun.

Plus, Carl Edwards is a friend and a great driver. Obviously, nobody is able to do what he did after the race because after the race, you are tired. So to do that after a race, that means you are in pretty good shape. So he was pretty damn strong.

12. Each week, I ask a driver to give me a question for the next interview. Last week’s was with Brad Sweet. His question for you was: Have you ever driven much on dirt, and if you did want to race on dirt, what car and what track would you want to race?

That’s a good question. In Mexico, we don’t have one racetrack that’s a dirt oval. All the dirt we have is for motorcycles. But in the west (part) of Mexico, in Chihuahua, they do have some dirt racing — but it’s with old cars. It’s more for fun, not professional racing. That’s the only kind of racing I’ve heard of with cars on dirt in Mexico.

So my background is just so different, that’s not something I have done. I’ve never been on dirt in my life. The first time I got invited to a dirt race, five or six years ago, I showed up with a white shirt — you could tell I was 100 percent a rookie. I wish one day I could try it — maybe a sprint car, because those things are fast. I saw your video after you did a two-seater and I was impressed you were impacted like that. So maybe a sprint car would be a lot of fun.

As for a racetrack? Maybe Eldora would be good.

Do you have a question I might be able to ask for the next interview? It will be with an IndyCar.

Yeah, actually. When I grew up with my family, I was watching more IndyCar than NASCAR. That’s because in my hometown (Monterrey, Mexico), IndyCar — actually Champ Car — used to go there every year. So I used to go there when I was 13 or 14 years old with my father and watch. That was a lot of fun to see the noise and the power of those cars. I enjoyed that a lot.

So my question would be: How much do they enjoy road-course racing versus ovals? And one day, would they be interested to try NASCAR either on an oval or road course?


Previous 12 Questions interviews with Daniel Suarez:

July 9, 2015

April 19, 2017

The Top Five: Breaking down the Dover race

Five thoughts after Sunday’s race at Dover International Speedway…

1. You see where this is going, right?

There have been plenty of NASCAR seasons when one driver stomps everyone and shows up as the team to beat every week. For example: Martin Truex Jr. last year.

But this year seems a bit different: There are two drivers on two different teams who seem evenly matched — and are collectively destroying the competition.

Of course, we’re talking about Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch, who have combined to win seven of the 11 races so far. After nearly one third of the season, the duo is on pace to win 23 races! Crazy.

It’s just been a tag-team butt-kicking, and they’re not always on at the same time.

But together, the drivers have accounted for more than half of the playoff points awarded so far — and that’s after Harvick lost some with his encumbered win earlier in the season.

This is a battle that is shaping up to continue all summer. And you know what? While it might not be ideal for fans who don’t like either driver, it’s a hell of a lot better than just one guy dominating week after week.

2. Stewart-Haas is the best team

Sorry, Joe Gibbs Racing and Furniture Row. You’ve been dethroned.

Though the Fords in general have been strong, it’s clear Stewart-Haas Racing in particular is the team to beat so far. SHR has the fastest, most consistent cars among all four of its entries — with three top-five finishes at Dover to emphasize that point.

Harvick has been great, but it’s not just him. Clint Bowyer (second on Sunday) has won a race and shown potential for more. Kurt Busch has become a regular face in the top 10 again and Aric Almirola is making people say, “Damn! Aric Almirola can drive!”

One key to the team’s success, aside from moves like Tony Gibson coming off the road to help guide collaboration in the shop, is the drivers apparently require similar things from the car. Bowyer said the various setups “are all relatively the same, and it shows on the racetrack.”

That’s a pretty important factor, because it means only one driver or crew chief needs to find something for all of them to benefit each week.

“When you can get four cars that are running as well as these four did today, it’s an awesome feeling,” Tony Stewart said.

3. Suarez on the rise

Doesn’t it seem like Daniel Suarez often gets left out of the top young drivers conversation?

Sometimes it feels like it’s all about Chase and Blaney and Bubba (and maybe Larson, if you consider him young enough to be in that group).

But after a horrible start to the season which saw him sitting 26th in the point standings after seven races, Suarez has put together an impressive four-week stretch: 11th, 10th, 10th and now third at Dover.

Suarez’s best career oval finish boosted him to 17th in the standings — suddenly just seven points out of a playoff spot.

“Once you get to this level, it’s always tough for (drivers),” Joe Gibbs said after the race. “We brought him up a year early. I think he’s just now getting confidence as he goes.”

Suarez said it was a combination of both driver and team getting better at the same time. And he’s learning every week, he said.

“If I have confidence and the team doesn’t, it doesn’t work,” he said. “Momentum in this sport is huge. In the last five or six weeks, we’ve had good speed and consistency — and that’s something I’m very proud of for my team and myself.”

It feels like Suarez is starting to emerge as a driver who can consistently run in the top 10 — and on a good day like Sunday, perhaps battle for wins.

4. What about the 48?

Dover is Jimmie Johnson’s best track, so it was a good weekend to watch how his team performed and see if the 48 is any closer to a turnaround.

The verdict? Eh, maybe.

Johnson got to third place for awhile on Sunday before a pit call cost him track position he never fully regained. He finished ninth, which isn’t great by his standards — but it was the best result by a Chevrolet driver.

And maybe that’s the fairest way to judge Johnson right now. He might be the greatest driver in history, but even the best can’t just take a 10th-place car and manhandle it to a win.

If Johnson gets outrun by Chase Elliott or even Kyle Larson every week, then it definitely makes people wonder if he and Chad Knaus have lost their magic. But Johnson is actually the top Hendrick driver in the standings now (12th) and the second-best Chevrolet to Larson. He has four straight top-12 finishes.

That’s not to say his team is in championship form at the moment. But he might not be as far off as it has seemed at times.

5. Stage 1’s odd ending

NASCAR made an unusual call on Sunday at the end of Stage 1 that is worth further examination.

Typically, NASCAR lets TV go to a commercial at the conclusion of a stage and then opens pit road as the commercials end. That has been part of the rhythm of stage racing since it began last year.

But at Dover, with many cars close to running out of fuel thanks to a strategy play, NASCAR opened pit road as soon as it could. That allowed drivers to make it safely to pit road with a little gas left in their tanks.

That was helpful to those teams, to be sure. But should NASCAR factor team strategy into their decisions? There’s no rule that says NASCAR can’t open pit road in that situation; it just hasn’t happened in other races.

NASCAR said it changed course primarily out of concern for the potential shitshow (my words, not theirs) it could cause if a dozen cars suddenly ran out of fuel at the end of the stage. NASCAR wouldn’t have had enough wreckers to get the potentially stalled cars to pit road, and then might have been in an even worse situation if pit road was blocked for a time. Because then other cars then would have run out of gas and created one of those only-in-NASCAR circus moments.

The desire to avoid that makes sense on many levels. On the other hand, if cars were going to run out of fuel, that’s not NASCAR’s fault. That’s part of the race; some drivers and teams would have played it better than others, and those who didn’t would suffer. Fans would understand that.

So if possible, NASCAR should avoid straying from its typical procedure — it looks bad, because some teams will always benefit more than others when that happens.

Friday roundup: Dover news and notes

Here are some of the highlights from Friday’s media availability sessions at Dover:

Pressure for the 48?

Jimmie Johnson hasn’t won since last year’s Dover spring race (which was in June, so it’s not a full season), which means you might expect him to come here feeling a bit more pressure than a normal weekend.

After all, it’s his best track — he has a record 11 victories here.

But Johnson says there’s actually less pressure when he shows up at Dover, because he’s so confident in how to get around this place.

Still, with Johnson in the midst of a career-long winless streak, Dover could be the best chance to grab a playoff spot and turn his season around.

Can the 48 get back to its old winning ways?

“I think we have created an environment of very high expectations because of the success we’ve had, and I think people forget how special our run has been,” Johnson said.  “We certainly want to get back into those ways and have it happen again — but history shows it doesn’t happen very often. We were very fortunate to harness lightning for a long stretch of time.”

Johnson said he’s “a realist” about his team’s progress.

“The encouraging news is we are making our cars better each and every week,” he said. “… We’re a victim of our own success, and I hope to create the headlines that we want and the headlines being along the lines of ‘Well, they should have won. It was Dover.’”

Pit guns among drivers council topics

This is probably a big “duh” since you would figure the drivers would want to talk to NASCAR about the pit gun issue, but Joey Logano confirmed the topic was raised during Tuesday’s driver council meeting at the NASCAR R&D Center.

“We talk about everything — we talk about pit guns and lots of other things,” Logano said. “I think the pit gun thing will be fine. There will be growing pains with some changes. There is a learning curve for the teams and NASCAR, but we have to make changes to continue growing and sometimes there will be pain when that happens. You can’t stay in your comfort zone forever because there is no growth in your comfort zone.”

Logano praised the drivers council as a positive forum for competitors to air their concerns with NASCAR in a private group. And it’s not all bad, he added.

“Our sport is in great health and we talk about that,” Logano said. “We talk about the amount of fans that are still watching our sport and how great things are going and we have a lot to be proud of.

“There is also a lot to work on, and I don’t think that is a secret that we are trying to make our sport better and better each day.”

Pain in the grass

Austin Dillon was just trying to avoid a wreck last week when he cut through the Talladega grass and ended up destroying his car as a result.

“I saw the cars starting to come even lower, and I saw there was a gap in the grass, so I just cut left,” Dillon said. “When I cut left, the first part of the grass was OK — then all of a sudden it felt like I hit a tabletop jump or something and destroyed the car.”

Dillon speculated he may have hit a drain or a buried pipe that had raised the grass. Otherwise, there was no explanation aside from the grass itself.

“It completely destroyed the car,” Dillon said. “It knocked the front clip up and the rear quarter panel off of the car and punctured the radiator, too. We were done after that.”

Drivers like Kyle Busch have been vocal advocates of getting rid of grass at racetracks, but Dillon said he’d like to go back and look at the exact spot he hit before making a judgment on whether the grass needs to go in that area.

Suarez still healing

Daniel Suarez has been posting workout videos lately where he’s using his injured left hand. But while the thumb has made progress from the avulsion fracture Suarez suffered at Texas, he’ll still have to race with a brace on it for now.

“It’s not 100 percent,” he said. “I can use the front palm of my hand very well, but when it’s time to push, my thumb is not quite there yet.”

Suarez said he thought about trying to race without a brace this weekend, but his doctor said to wait two more weeks. The thumb no longer causes him pain inside the car (because it’s stabilized with the brace), but Suarez can’t grab the wheel the way he’s used to with the brace on.

“It’s still stiff and it’s still a little sore when I move it too much, but it’s much better than a couple weeks ago,” he said. “I’m excited to finally have a regular glove and to not wear this thing (later this month).”

Daniel Suarez unsure why Subway abruptly ended sponsorship

Daniel Suarez, walking through the Darlington garage with a patch over the spot where a Subway logo used to appear on his firesuit, claimed Saturday he did not know why the sandwich chain suddenly ended its sponsorship.

ESPN.com’s Bob Pockrass reported earlier Saturday that Subway had immediately ended its contract with Joe Gibbs Racing — this despite having been scheduled to sponsor Suarez’s No. 19 car at Talladega Superspeedway next month.

The company told Pockrass in an oddly worded statement the sponsorship “had” to be terminated “due to circumstances beyond our control.”

But Suarez said the decision wasn’t something he could control, either.

“That is nothing in my control and there’s not a lot I can do about it,” Suarez told me and Pockrass after qualifying.

The Cup Series rookie told us he found out about Subway’s decision on Friday. He had been out of the country for the NASCAR off weekend and “didn’t know a lot about” what was going on.

Asked if the decision was related to something he did, Suarez said: “I don’t really know. Like I said, I just found out yesterday — and on a race weekend, I don’t really have time to think about that. I have to think about the race.”

So was Suarez sad or upset about the decision?

“That’s part of racing,” he said. “Sponsorship comes and sponsorship leaves. There’s nothing we can do about it. I don’t really know the reasons, so there’s not a lot I can add to it.”

Subway, which had sponsored Suarez predecessor Carl Edwards, jumped on board with the Mexican driver at the start of the season. The company even featured Suarez in a commercial, which was part of its four-race sponsorship.

“We are excited about the future with Daniel Suarez!” Subway chief advertising officer Chris Carroll said in a February statement.

But by Saturday, Subway had pulled the commercial off YouTube and Joe Gibbs Racing had removed the company from the “Partners” section of its website.

JGR did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Top Five: Breaking down the Daytona race

Five thoughts after Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway…

1. Stenhouse, repeated

As the field lined up for the overtime restart on Saturday night, only one driver in the top nine already had a win this season. So surely, there was going to be a new winner and throw yet another wrinkle into this year’s unpredictable playoff picture.

Nooooope! That one previous winner in the top nine — Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — used a run on the bottom to blow past David Ragan as the No. 38 car left the door open, then sailed through what was a relatively calm final lap (at least compared to the rest of the race).

Stenhouse has apparently gotten pretty good at this plate racing thing, which is weird to say. As recently as the first stage of the Talladega race, Stenhouse looked like a weapon. Then he ended up winning that race.

And Talladega wasn’t a fluke, because he led four different times at Daytona before securing his second career victory and second straight plate win.

Yes, Saturday was definitely a race of survival where the best cars were taken out. But you can’t use that as an argument to take anything away from Stenhouse, because when it was Big Boy Time, he put himself in position to win and executed in the end. Again.

“He’s learned a lot,” runner-up Clint Bowyer said. “He’s become a good plate racer. I remember when he came in, he was a little bit chaotic, but he’s not now. He’s got it figured out, and he’s won two of them.”

2. What might have been

Stenhouse was a nice story because he hasn’t won very much, but his presence in victory lane oddly felt like a letdown because of all the potential new winners late in the race.

Ragan or Michael McDowell would have been major stories for NASCAR, with underdog teams launching themselves into the playoffs at a to-be-determined star driver’s expense.

Or a Bowyer win would have triggered a major victory party that would have rolled on until the sun came up — and it would have been good for NASCAR fans to see him win again.

Or maybe the dawn of the new Young Guns could take another step with an unexpected victor. Rookies Ty Dillon and Daniel Suarez had shots to win and ultimately got shuffled back, as did Bubba Wallace (how huge would that have been for NASCAR to have an exciting young talent win in the No. 43 car on July 4th weekend?).

Anyway, you get the point. But one reason it didn’t happen is because the inexperienced drivers made moves that either didn’t work or were incorrect.

Take Dillon, for example. Dillon sought out Bowyer for a conversation after the race on pit road because he was unsure if he did the right thing by pulling out of line to try and go for the win (no one went with him and he got shuffled back to 16th).

Could he have done anything different? Ultimately, Bowyer told him there was no right answer.

“I’m kicking myself, because the finish doesn’t show what we’re capable of,” Dillon said. “But I think I’d be more disappointed just sitting there riding and not making something happen. I’m a go-getter. My personality might have gotten us a bad finish, but it also got us up toward the front.”

Suarez got stuck in the bottom lane on the last two restarts and called it “bad luck.” But there was also an element of inexperience that played a role.

“I’m still learning, so I don’t really know how aggressive you need to be to win these races,” he told me. “So maybe I have to push a little bit harder.”

Ragan, of course, has plenty of plate experience and just didn’t realize Stenhouse had that big of a run coming on the bottom (he was more concerned with trying to protect the top). He was disappointed, of course, but it won’t be the worst thing he’s experienced.

“Hey, I lost a Daytona 500 down here,” he said. “Losing a Coke Zero 400 — that ain’t nothin’.”

3. Wreckfest!

The wild race included 14 cautions, which is a record for the summer race and the second-most of any Daytona race ever — including all of the Daytona 500s except for 2011 (16 cautions). That’s saying a lot, considering there were 100 fewer miles for something to happen.

Of course, two of those cautions were for stages. But that’s still 12 cautions, and for all the chaos over the years, there have only been double-digit cautions at Daytona 10 times in 141 races here.

What happened? Well, Brad Keselowski tweeted a theory. He said it had something to do with a softer tire brought by Goodyear.

It certainly had an unusual feel, even for a plate race. Aggression really seemed to pay off in a big way (look at McDowell, who drew drivers’ ire with his moves but ended up with a career-best fourth-place finish).

“You’ve got to block hard, you’ve got to cut people off, you’ve got to push hard, you’ve got to stick your nose in there where it doesn’t belong — all the things that you know are capable of disaster,” Bowyer said. “But if you don’t, the next guy is going to, and nine times out of 10, it works. That’s just the nature of the beast.”

4. Dammit, Dale

Beat-up cars can end up winning plate races depending on the circumstances, so when Dale Earnhardt Jr. rallied from two laps down and got himself back into the top 10, I was starting to wonder if we were witnessing an Earnhardt Miracle.

But that thought didn’t last long, since Kevin Harvick had a flat tire and spun in front of Earnhardt. That’s a shame, since Earnhardt fans were really craving a win and felt Daytona might have been their driver’s last, best chance to do so before the playoffs.

So now what? Well, there are nine races left for Earnhardt to win and make the playoffs (it’s not happening on points). In theory, he’s got a shot at places like Pocono and Michigan, where he’s run well and won before. But time is starting to run out, and it’s a very real possibility fans won’t get to see Earnhardt get that feel-good victory like Tony Stewart or Jeff Gordon had in their final seasons.

That shows two things: First, it’s a reminder of how hard it is to win any race in NASCAR (which should give us more of an appreciation for those who win often). Second, that should permanently put to rest any dumb conspiracy theories of NASCAR being rigged — because you know execs would love nothing more to have Earnhardt as part of the playoffs.

5. What’s the point?

Earnhardt isn’t the only one with playoff worries. Joey Logano’s encumbered win looms bigger and bigger every week.

There have been 10 different winners with non-penalized wins, which leaves six playoff spots open. Those currently belong to Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Jamie McMurray, Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer and Matt Kenseth. Logano, who finished 35th after crashing, is currently out by three points.

Logano will probably rally points-wise, but if one more new driver wins who is below him in the standings — say AJ Allmendinger at Watkins Glen, for example — Logano might actually miss the playoffs. That seems inconceivable given how good that team is, but it’s possible.

Of course, Logano could put all this to rest sometime in the next few weeks with a win, but it’s certainly an interesting development to watch — particularly because he’s 12th in the standings, and you don’t typically see drivers that high up miss the playoffs.

Video: Toyota drivers participate in Olympic crossover event

During two days in Utah, I watched as Toyota NASCAR drivers Martin Truex Jr., Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez — along with crew chiefs Cole Pearn and Chris Gayle — mingled with Olympic athletes and participated in various Winter Games training.

It was pretty fun, and I could tell you all about it, but I’d rather show you. So here’s a video I made about it: