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Shake-up for Hendrick pit chiefs

Hendrick Motorsports is to make sweeping changes to its pit crew line-up for drivers Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Mark Martin.
The moves follow much-publicised problems with pit stops that at one point threatened the championship campaign of Jimmie Johnson, who ended up switching his entire pit crew out at Texas in favour of that of Jeff Gordon's crew but who still suffered some slow stops in the race finale at Homestead.

Having won his five consecutive title at the weekend, Johnson unsurprisingly retains his own pit chief Chas Knaus - the idea of anyone breaking up this record-breaking pairing is unthinkable.

But Jeff Gordon is to lose his long-standing partnership with crew chief Steve Letarte, who is being swapped into the Dale Earnhardt Jr set-up to find out why the sport's biggest name and most popular driver has had such poor form since joining Hendrick three years ago, having one just one race back in 2008.

Instead, Gordon will gain crew chief Alan Gustafson who has been with Mark Martin for two years. While 2010 has been a disappointment, the veteran driver's 2009 form had stunned fans as he came close to taking the title. Earnhardt's pit chief of two year's standing, Lance McGrew, steps in to take charge of the Martin crew.

Despite Hendrick's success in taking the title again with Johnson, the other three drivers all ended 2010 without a single win between them and only Gordon made the Chase. "We had a championship season [in 2010], but we weren't where we wanted and needed to be with all four teams," acknowledged Rick Hendrick. "We've made the right adjustments, and I'm excited to go racing with this lineup.

"This will improve us as an organization, across the board," Hendrick added.

The team is also making changes to its production facilities, pairing the production of the #5 and #24 of Martin and Gordon into one building within the Hendrick Motorsports factory and that of the #48 and the #88 of Johnson and Gordon into another; previously the #24 and #48 had been paired. Perhaps significantly, this means that Knaus and Letarte will continue to work alongside one another back at base despite Letarte's switch of drivers.

The announced changes take effect immediately.



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