UPDATE: Friday, November 5, 12:19 PM ET: Dustin Albino of Jayski.com has cited multiple sources that say Dave Elenz will move to the Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 team with Erik Jones in 2022. When asked for a comment on that particular rumor from Richard Petty Motorsports, the team told us that there is no comment at this time and that any announcements on a crew chief for the No. 43 team would come after the 2021 season is over.
“At this time we can’t comment on that rumor,” the team representative told TobyChristie.com. “We’re going to focus on the end of the season. Expect an announcement after the season is over.”
Noah Gragson will chase his first-career NASCAR Xfinity Series championship this weekend at Phoenix Raceway, but the 23-year old will go into the 2022 season with a new crew chief as Dave Elenz will step away from JR Motorsports and the No. 9 team at season’s end to move to the NASCAR Cup Series.
“It’s great for Dave, I know he’s always wanted to be a crew chief in the Cup Series,” Gragson said during Xfinity Series Championship 4 Media Day. “It’s exciting for him. I’m happy for him and his family. Definitely bummed that I’m not going be with him next year, but definitely excited for his future.”
Elenz, 40, has spent the last seven seasons as a crew chief for the JR Motorsports NASCAR Xfinity Series program. In 227 starts atop the box, Elenz has 15 victories and he has guided William Byron and Tyler Reddick to NASCAR Xfinity Series driver championships.
With that type of experience leaving the pit box, I’m sure JR Motorsports will search far and wide for Gragson’s new crew chief for 2022. However, the driver does not have a bead on who his new partner will be next season, yet.
“No clue. No idea. I wish I knew,” Gragson explained when asked who the new crew chief would be. “Allen Hart, the engineer on the No. 7 [team] was like, ‘Have they told you yet?’ We were on the plane out here and I’m like, ‘Dude, I’m kind of left here in the dark,’ not in a bad way. I know they’ll figure it out. But I have no idea. I don’t know if it’ll be an engineer from Hendrick or an existing crew chief, or a retired crew chief or an engineer from JRM.”
At the end of the day, whoever his new crew chief is, Gragson just hopes they have a relaxed personality.
“I want somebody who is pretty cool,” Gragson said. “Maybe not so stuck up or serious, you know?”
At first, Gragson was stung by the news of Elenz moving on, but after reaching out to his support system, he realized that this move is what’s right for his crew chief of the last three years and, ultimately, it could pay big dividends for his own racing career, as well.
“I think it’s what’s right,” Gragson admitted of Elenz moving to Cup. “At first, I was like, ‘Oh man, he’s leaving me,’ and then I talked to Josh Wise — I go to him a lot for advice and Brandon McReynolds — you know, it’s good to have change and new opportunity and work with somebody else. You get so comfortable, but maybe there are some other avenues and other things to look at that a different crew chief looks at and you can learn even more.”
Gragson finished eighth in the championship standings during his rookie campaign in the NASCAR Xfinity Series with Elenz in 2019. The duo scored two wins and finished fifth in the 2020 standings. Now, the pair will look to finish their tenure together with a championship this season.
As for where Elenz is going? That remains a bit of a mystery. It’ll be an interesting move to keep an eye on.