Roush Fenway Racing's Greg Biffle will have a new crew chief at this weekend's Cup race at Loudon, New Hampshire, the team announced today.
Greg Erwin has been crew chief on the #16 since 2007 and has worked successfully with Biffle to get into the all-important Chase over the past three seasons, claiming five wins, 36 top fives and 66 top tens along the way.
But this season has been a struggle for the team and Biffle is the only Roush Fenway driver without any Cup win so far this year, his last visit to victory lane coming in last year's Kansas Chase outing. Biffle is currently 14th in the Cup championship points, and the lack of wins means that he can't even look to the newly introduced wildcard to help him make the cut over the remaining eight races of the regular season.
Team mate David Ragan's maiden win last week at Daytona may have increased the pressure, and with sponsorship money increasingly tight following Crown Royal's decision to pull its backing of Matt Kenseth and the ongoing uncertainty about Carl Edwards' contract negotiations and the position of his own backers, the need for Biffle and his team to perform has never been higher.
Biffle has been known to dress down his pit crew over the team radio during the race when things don't go smoothly and even accusing them of incompetency and "ruining his career" although not to anything like the degree of Kurt Busch's meltdown rant against his Penske team at Richmond in May that resulted in the exit of Tom German and a rapid rise in team fortunes. But it's not clear whether the final decision to make a change in the #16's crew was at Biffle's instigation, that of team owner Jack Roush, or whether Erwin himself had simply had enough.
Erwin is to be replaced as crew chief for the #16 by Matt Puccia, who has been Roush Fenway since 2004, most recently in the research and development program having previously been Paul Menard's crew chief for the #10 Nationwide operation. That car claimed 19 top ten finished and finished fifth in the 2010 Nationwide points standings.
He has also been crew chief in the Camping World Truck Series for Roush Fenway, first for the #50 and subsequently for the #99 driven by Erik Darnell who finished fourth in the 2008 Truck championship, claiming a win at Michigan in the process. Before joining Roush, Puccia also had stints with Yates Racing's Nationwide team and Ultra Motorsport's Truck team.
"Matt Puccia has been a very effective and successful crew chief with the organization in both the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series," said the team's owner, Jack Roush. "Most recently he has led the research and development efforts for our superspeedway program which helped put David Ragan in Victory Lane in Daytona. This is a natural progression of our crew chief development and I have every confidence that he will do well in this new role."
Greg Biffle welcomes the change, which he hoped would reinvigorate the #16's Cup campaign. "I am excited for the opportunity to work with Matt Puccia," he said. "Greg Erwin led this team to the Chase the past three years and I look forward to Matt doing the same."
Erwin will be redeployed within the Roush Fenway organisation, but no announcement about role he might take up has been made at this time.
"Greg Erwin has made a significant contribution to our engineering efforts and our program is better because of him," commented Roush.