Joe Gibbs Racing is currently hunting for a replacement crew chief for Bobby Labonte's #18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet, having released Michael McSwain from his duties.

McSwain joined the team in December 2002, and served as Labonte's crew chief for both the 2003 season and first 18 races of 2004, but team boss JD Gibbs decided that a new face could be the key to turning the former champion's fortunes around. McSwain scored victories with Labonte in Atlanta and Homestead-Miami last season, en route to an eighth-place finish in the point standings, but has yet to hit top spot in 2004.

"Over the past two years, Michael McSwain has worked extremely hard for Joe Gibbs Racing," Gibbs said, "This was a difficult decision, but it was time to go in a different direction. We appreciate all that he has done for the team and wish him the best of luck in the future."

"Michael did a great job when he came in and took over for Jimmy after the 2002 season," Labonte added, "We won a couple of races in 2003 and won some poles. He works hard, and I wish him success down the road."

An interim crew chief will be named in the near future, with Jimmy Makar, senior vice-president of racing, assisting the team while the management searches for McSwain's replacement. Makar served as crew chief on the #18 Chevrolet from 1992-2002, winning the 1993 Daytona 500 with Dale Jarrett and the 2000 Winston Cup Championship with Labonte.

"We hope to make the decision on a permanent crew chief in the near future, but we are going to take our time to find the best person for the job," Gibbs said.

The next race for the Nextel Cup Series is the New England 300 on 25 July.