Zipadelli leaves JGR to rejoin Tony Stewart
16 December 2011
Greg Zipadelli, crew chief of the #20 Home Depot car since it was set up in 1999, is to leave Joe Gibbs Racing with immediate effect in order to take up the position of director of competition at Stewart-Haas Racing.
Zipadelli still had a year to run on his contract at JGR, but was growing increasingly unhappy with the team and with the performance of his young driver, Joey Logano, with the two exchanging sharp comments over the team radio during the previous season and Zipadelli reportedly keen to end his time as one of NASCAR's longest-serving crew chiefs.
"We're very proud to have Greg Zipadelli join Stewart-Haas Racing," said driver and team co-owner Tony Stewart, who won his third Sprint Cup championship last month. "Greg and I have a long and successful history together. I know him and he knows me, and we both know what it takes to build race teams."
"Tony had an unbelievable opportunity with Stewart-Haas Racing, and he's obviously made the most of it," said Zipadelli. "To become a part of what he's already built, but to do it in a new role with a new set of responsibilities, was a challenge I wanted."
Zipadelli's move reunites one of modern NASCAR's most formidable partnerships, with 'Zippy' and Stewart having won 33 races and two NASCAR Sprint Cup championships in 2002 and 2005 over the course of ten years together, before Stewart opted to leave JGR where he had been for his entire NASCAR career up to that time in order to set up his own team in 2009.
Zipadelli would likely have followed his close friend to the new team if he had not been signed to a long-term contract at JGR through 2012. JGR finally agreed this week to an early release for Zipadelli, presumably after reaching a mutual agreement and/or a financial arrangement with SHR: "I really appreciate Joe and JD Gibbs for all that that they've given me over the years and for allowing me to seize this opportunity," said Zipadelli after the today's news.
Zipadelli is replacing Bobby Hutchens, who was released by SHR during the summer. In that role, Zipadelli will oversee car crew chiefs and making or approving key hirings. "We took our time in searching for a competition director because it's an important role with a lot of responsibility," explained Stewart. "Greg knows all that goes into the job, understands the importance of teamwork and communication across all levels of the organization, and is ultimately someone I have a great deal of trust in."
Zipadelli will also oversee the setting up of a third car team for Danica Patrick for her 10 Cup appearances with the team in 2012. No crew chief has been announced for the #10 car, and it's likely that Zipadelli himself could fill the role if no one more suitable is identified in the meantime.
Zipadelli's move to SHR had been heavily rumoured for some days, ever since he tweeted a picture of himself in a bar with Stewart's new SHR crew chief Steve Addington with the caption, "Looking forward to a great year..."
Joe Gibbs Racing confirmed that the role of crew chief for Joey Logano in the #14 Cup car would now go to Jason Ratcliff, who had formerly been crew chief for JGR's Nationwide operation. Ratcliff helped clinch the Nationwide Series title for Kyle Busch in 2009 and the owners' championship for the team in 2010.
"We appreciate everything Greg has done for us," said Joe Gibbs. "He has been a big part of our success, but we felt the timing was right to make this transition for our race team which allows Greg the opportunity to pursue a director of competition position with Tony.
"We also felt that the timing was right to bring Jason to our Cup operation. He is a proven leader with a tremendous track record in our Nationwide program and we think he and Joey will work well together."
"I'm excited about the opportunity to join our Cup operation and work with Joey and everyone on the #20 team," said Ratcliff. "I've had the opportunity to work with Joey a few times now on the Nationwide side so there is a familiarity there, but I'm looking forward to getting started full time and working alongside Dave [Rogers, Kyle Busch's crew chief] and Darian [Grubb]."
JGR announced last week that it had hired Stewart's former crew chief Darian Grubb as the new crew chief for Denny Hamlin's #11 car after former crew chief Mick Ford was let go by the team.
Todd Gordon named as new #22 crew chief
Penske Racing has announced that it has promoted Todd Gordon to the role of crew chief for the #22 Cup car previously driven by Kurt Busch.
Gordon had been in charge of Penske's full-time Nationwide team in 2011, and picked up six wins during the season. He's replacing Steve Addington, who left Penske at the end of the season to join Stewart-Haas Racing as the new crew chief for the #14 driven by Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart.
"Our first priority is always to look within the walls of Penske Racing when making personnel decisions," said Roger Penske. "We want to reward success. The path we are taking with Todd mirrors what we did with Paul Wolfe who led the #2 Miller Lite Dodge [with Brad Keselowski] to a Chase berth in 2011. We think Todd can get the job done in the same manner."
"I can't thank Roger and everyone at Penske Racing enough for this vote of confidence," said Gordon. "It's an honour to step into a race-winning team. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but this is an organization full of talented people that know how to get the job done."
There was no confirmation yet about who the new driver of the #22 will be, following the "mutual agreement" between Penske and Busch to part company. The team said that they were continuing to evaluate driver options: among the drivers said to be in contention are David Ragan, Brian Vickers and David Reutimann who all find themselves without race seats for 2012.
Kyle Busch snaps up Nationwide chief from Roush Fenway
Kyle Busch Motorsports has signed Mike Beam as crew chief for his new Nationwide Series car in 2012.
Beam had been crew chief for Carl Edwards' #60 Nationwide car at Roush Fenway Racing, and had amassed 12 race wins and nine pole positions during the past two seasons. He has previously worked with drivers including Richard Petty, Michael Waltrip, Bill Elliott, Sterling Marlin and Elliott Sadler.
Kyle Busch plans to split his Nationwide Series appearances between his own KBM entry and the Joe Gibbs Racing car in order to fulfil existing sponsorship commitments. KBM have yet to announce who will be time-sharing their as-yet unnumbered car with Busch under Beam's stewardship.
Carl Edwards had already announced that he will be scaling back his Nationwide appearances and will no longer be making a full-year commitment to the season.