4 December 2014
NASCAR Sprint Cup: JGR details 2015 crew chief shuffle
Joe Gibbs Racing has confirmed its long-awaited shake-up of crew chiefs, the latest of a number of changes announced by Sprint Cup teams post-season.
Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch will have new crew chiefs for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series campaigns in 2015, it was confirmed by Joe Gibbs Racing on Thursday.
After helping Hamlin to third place in this year's championship, Darian Grubb is to move to set up the new #19 crew that will be working Carl Edwards, who is moving to JGR from Roush Fenway Racing over the off-season. Grubb previously won his first Cup championship with Tony Stewart in 2011 before joining JGR from Stewart-Has Racing.
Taking Grubb's place at Hamlin's side will be Dave Rogers, who had been in charge of the #18 crew for Kyle Busch since 2010. His place will be taken by Adam Stevens, who has been working with Busch on the team's Nationwide Series entry and between them netted an impressive 19 victories in the last two seasons. Meanwhile Jason Ratcliff will stay on as the crew chief of Matt Kenseth's #20 entry.
"With the expansion of our NASCAR Sprint Cup Series operations to four teams next year with the addition of Carl Edwards, we have been able to take a step back and evaluate each of our teams and make decisions that we feel are best for our organization long term," said JD Gibbs, the president of Joe Gibbs Racing.
"Like Jason and Dave previously, Adam has clearly proven that he is ready to move into the Cup Series and we feel that his familiarity with Kyle provides the opportunity for us to make that move now," he added in a press release from the team. "We think pairing Dave with Denny and Darian with Carl will also make each team stronger heading into next season. Jason and Matt came together quickly and we felt it was in the best interest of the #20 team to keep it as is."
Steven's place in the second tier championship - which will be known as the XFINITY Series in 2015 - will be taken by Eric Phillips who will be charged in overseeing Daniel Suarez rookie campaign. Phillips was previously a crew chief in Kyle Busch Motorsport's Truck Series team.
The #54 JGR car in the XFINITY Series which will be driven by Busch among others will be in the hands of Chris Gayle, the crew chief for JGR driver Elliott Sadler in 2014. Sadler has left the team for a new seat at Roush in 2015, while the #20 will be the responsibility of Mike Wheeler, Hamlin's former engineer who replaced Grubb during his suspension for a technical violation earlier this year.
Other changes announced to date include Hendrick Motorsport promoting Greg Ives into the position of crew chief of the #88 Sprint Cup car driven by Dale Earnhardt Jr. after the departure of Steve Letarte for a media role. Ives spent 2014 working with Earnhardt's JR Motorsports Nationwide team and oversaw Chase Elliott's title-winning rookie year.
Hendrick has also appointed Keith Rodden as Kasey Kahne's new Sprint Cup crew chief in place of Kenny Francis. Rodden will be replaced in turn by Matt McCall as the crew chief of Chip Ganassi Racing's #1 car driven by Jamie McMurray.
Paul Menard will have a new crew chief working on the Richard Childress Racing #27 car next year with Justin Alexander taking over from Slugger Labbe who is moving to a management role at RCR. Another change on pit road is Cole Pearn's appointment as crew chief of the #78 Furniture Row Racing car replacing Todd Berrier, following Martin Truex Jr.'s worst season as a Cup driver in 2014.
“In an effort to continue to move the team forward we feel the personnel changes and new additions will yield positive results on the race track,” said Joe Garone, Furniture Row Racing's general manager. "Cole has played a vital role in our growth. The well-rounded skill sets that be brings to the table in his new position as crew chief will he instrumental in our commitment to once again become a Chase participant. As a former racer and an experienced engineer, Cole has a thorough understanding of what it takes to bring us to that level."
As well as swapping Tony Gibson and Daniel Knost as the crew chiefs for Danica Patrick's #10 and Kurt Busch's #41 cars before the end of the 2014 season, Stewart-Haas Racing has also now appointed veteran motorsports engineer Matt Borland as vice president of technology for Haas F1 Team and SHR that will see him act as a liaison between the activities of the two organisations across F1 and NASCAR.
SHR has additionally hired 18-year Hendrick veteran Rex Stump as its new technical director.
Stewart undergoes fourth surgery
Cup driver and team co-owner Tony Stewart has completed a successful follow-up surgery on the broken leg he received in August 2013 while racing in a non-NASCAR regional racing event.
The planned surgery was to replace a rod in Stewart's right leg, and was a routine follow-up for the severely broken right tibia and fibula suffered in a sprint car racing accident that had ended his year prematurely, forcing him to miss the last 15 Cup races of that season.
It's the fourth surgery since the accident, and Stewart said that he expects at least once more before his recovery is complete. Stewart will now attend the formal Sprint Cup Series Awards banquet on Friday evening to celebrate this year's championship victory for his team and for his driver and close friend Kevin Harvick.
Joe Gibbs Racing
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Martin Truex Jr.
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