A quick personal note: My editor sent me an e-mail asking me to do a story on Dave Rogers. Normally I have a decent memory, but I had to go back to my e-mail twice to remember the name Dave Rogers. Then, like many of you, I asked the same question. Who in the blue hell is Dave Rogers? Turns out he might be the most important person in Kyle Busch’s career. And he was a focal point in one of racing’s biggest scandals last year.
Dave Rogers will take over as Busch’s crew chief after Sunday’s race at Talladega. From the no-pressure department, he replaces Steve Addington, a guy who won 12 races with Busch over the last two Sprint Cup seasons. Rogers is currently the Nationwide crew chief for the No. 20 Toyota of Joe Gibbs Racing. Busch and others won nine times under that number in 2008. Joey Logano has been the primary driver of the No. 20 this season, winning five times. His average finish in 20 starts is seventh. Good hire. Right?
How interesting is it that his Joe Gibbs Racing Web site bio failed to mention Rogers’ suspension for putting magnets on the gas pedal during a Nationwide Series race in Michigan last August. Per The Sporting News:
During dyno testing after Saturday’s race, NASCAR discovered magnetic shims placed behind the throttle pedals of both Gibbs cars, a move designed to prevent the pedals from being fully depressed and thereby reducing the peak horsepower readings from the two engines.
In late July, NASCAR had instituted an engine rule change designed to bring Toyota’s power more in line with that of other manufacturers’. Before the rule change was made, Toyota’s horsepower had measured consistently higher than that of the other car makes during prior dyno testing.
After the shims were removed at Michigan, the peak number of the Gibbs’ Toyotas (640 horsepower) was still higher than that of the Chevrolets (636), Fords (634) and Dodges (632).
Rogers was suspended the rest of 2008 and returned for the second race of 2009. In between, he told reporters he wasn’t worried about the cheater label.
“Sometimes you get caught up in the moment, and that’s probably what I did,” Rogers said. “I made a mistake, and I owned up to that mistake, and I didn’t make excuses. If you look back at my career, if you consider why I still work for Joe Gibbs Racing, that’s proof that throughout my career I’ve been an upstanding citizen. I don’t generally make these mistakes, and I feel the competitors I race against respect me for that. I know who I am. I know myself well enough to know that generally I don’t do that sort of thing. I had a lapse in judgment, made an error, but I don’t make a habit of it.”
Rogers joined Joe Gibbs Racing in 1999 and worked under Greg Zipadelli for six seasons. Two of those years yielded championships for Mr. Whopper himself, Tony Stewart. In 2005, Rogers became the first crew chief of the third JGR car to enter NASCAR. He didn’t last a full season. Denny Hamlin took Rogers out of the engineering department to serve as crew chief of his Nationwide ride in 2006, where Rogers has been ever since, minus the massive suspension for putting magnets on a gas pedal.
With all this in mind, here’s a quick analysis of this move.
The good: Busch and Rogers have a history of working together. It won’t be as cold as some of the new driver-crew chief partnerships we’ve seen.
The bad: Rogers isn’t a big name, and Kyle Busch has a tendency to be Kyle Busch. This isn’t Phil Jackson arriving to calm down Kobe Bryant. Also, isn’t it fair to think Busch might get some more random inspections and scrutiny from the NASCAR mafia with his new buddy on board?
The we-don’t-know: For every great crew chief or driver who used his second chance on the big stage to succeed, there are countless more who flat-out couldn’t get it done. For every reclamation project who came back, there’s a Steve Howe.
The we-do-know: A cheater just got promoted.