Steve Addington has left Penske Racing, it was announced this week following the final race of the 2011 season at Homestead-Miami - as the first of a number of end-of-season changes in team, crew and driver line-ups involving Kevin Harvick, Juan Pablo Montoya, Jeff Burton, David Ragan and Andy Lally started to emerge.
“Steve Addington is no longer with our organisation," said a terse statement from the Penske team. "We appreciate the successes we experienced together and wish him the best in his future endeavours."
Addington was crew chief for the #22 car driven by Kurt Busch. It's believed that he might already be signed up to replace Darian Grubb as Tony Stewart's crew chief for the #14 car in 2012, after Grubb revealed that he was out of a job after engineering Stewart to championship victory on Sunday.
However, Stewart said that all options were still open and no firm decisions had been taken yet. “We're looking at all of our options right now,” Stewart said on Tuesday. “After we get through all the media obligations, I'll get to go back to the shop and we'll sit down as a group and try to come up with a decision and figure it out ... We'll try to sit down and see what we think is the best option and decision for the company."
Grubb could still be relocated within Stewart-Haas Racing, either in an executive role or as crew chief for the #10 part-time entry to be driven by Danica Patrick.
Addington will likely be relieved to put behind him a torrid time at Penske with Busch, with their association coming to another stormy end at Homestead after the #22's driveshaft and transmission failed just four laps into the race. Addington also worked with Busch's younger brother, Kyle, at Joe Gibbs Racing where they won 12 races together.
Sunday's early exit was characteristic of a turbulent season for Kurt Busch at Penske, which has seen several on-air tirades against the team for poor performance directed at Addington and even at team owner Roger Penske himself. This time, the media was on the receiving end of Busch's fury: after he was forced to retire, Busch was lined up for an interview on ESPN with their pit lane reporter Dr Jerry Punch waiting for the studio hand over to him, when Busch became increasingly unhappy at being kept waiting and let loose with a series of expletives.
In the end, Punch finally had enough of being on the receiving end and walked away, telling his producers "never mind, never mind" - an exchange captured on camera and later uploaded to YouTube
. Penske issued an apology for Busch's behaviour on Tuesday, saying: "Penske Racing extends its apologies to Dr. Jerry Punch, our media partners and our sponsors and fans for Kurt Busch's inappropriate actions in Homestead on Sunday.
"These actions do not represent Penske Racing and are inconsistent with the company's standards for behaviour, respect for others and professionalism. This matter is being reviewed internally with no further comment at this time."