Offseason Crew Chief Movement

by Jeffrey Price on February 5, 2008 @ 11:40:22 PDT

 


In an extremely high-profile signing in a world where top drivers like <a href="/player/18511/nsc">Jeff Gordon</a> and <a href="/player/18573/nsc">Tony Stewart</a> are driving under unspoken lifetime contracts, Dale Earnhardt Jr

Chip Bolin, Roush Fenway Racing

Driver: Matt Kenseth

Current Team: No. 17 DeWalt Ford

Analysis: With the addition of Bolin as crew chief, Kenseth and the No. 17 car appear to be in capable hands. Bolin inherits the daunting task of replacing Robbie Reiser on the No. 17 car. The Kenseth-Reiser connection, which included a Cup championship in 2003, was arguably the best in the business. However, Bolin's background with Kenseth is impressive in its own right. Bolin has been with the No. 17 car as team engineer since Kenseth joined the Cup circuit in 2000. Last season, when Reiser was suspended for the first four races, Bolin took over as interim crew chief. Under Bolin's guidance, Kenseth posted a three-week stretch that included a win, a third and a fourth. The rest of the pit crew looks to be unchanged, so expect the "Killer Bees," the nickname given to Kenseth's pit crew due to their speed and success, to be in full swarm in 2008.

Roy McCauley, Penske Racing

Driver: Ryan Newman

Current Team: No. 12 Alltel Dodge

Analysis: McCauley takes over crew chief duties on the No. 12 car, replacing Mike Nelson, who will oversee Penske's Sprint Cup program. McCauley was the crew chief for Kurt Busch in the No. 2 car for a season and a half seasons until last year's June race at Michigan International Speedway. Busch's performance was underwhelming during McCauley's tenure. Busch was 16th in points and winless when McCauley left the team. Busch also missed the Chase for the Cup in 2006 under McCauley's guidance. McCauley will be the third crew chief in three seasons for the No. 12 car. It needs some sort of shot in the arm; Newman had no wins in 2007 and has missed the Chase in each of the past two seasons. However, it remains to be seen if McCauley will be the much needed catalyst.

Frank Kerr, Robby Gordon Motorsports

Driver: Robby Gordon

Current Team: No. 7 Jim Beam/Menard's Ford

Analysis: The No. 7 team has seen a revolving door at crew chief recently. Kerr starts as crew chief in 2008, taking over for the departing Peter Sospenzo. Sospenzo replaced Gene Nead last September when Nead left to join the Wood Brothers/JTG Racing team. Kerr was the crew chief for Michael Waltrip Racing's No. 00 team last season after being named to the position in shotgun fashion just weeks before the season started. The No. 00 car was the best of a sorry lot over at MWR, perhaps due to Kerr's abilities. Given the turnover rate of crew chiefs on the No. 7 car, it's not a great bet that Kerr will finish the season with Robby Gordon Racing. He could have an impact on Victory Lane, however. Pit strategy is a key at the road course tracks where Gordon excels, so Gordon's shot at a win in 2008 could hinge on a Kerr call.

Doug Randolph, Dale Earnhardt Inc.

Driver: Paul Menard

Current Team: No. 15 Menard's Chevrolet

Analysis: Randolph moves over from Petty Enterprises to take over the No. 15 car for DEI. He replaces Dave Charpentier, who becomes the team director for DEI. Randolph garnered experience at crew chief last season, taking over for Paul Andrews on the No. 43 Dodge at Petty last August. Prior to that, Randolph was a crew chief at MB2 Motorsports for four seasons, including a stint in the Cup circuit as driver Sterling Marlin's crew chief on the No. 14 car in 2006.

Cully Barraclough, Yates Racing

Driver: David Gilliland

Current Team: No. 38 Ford

Analysis: Barraclough takes over as crew chief for the No. 38 car, replacing Todd Parrott, who moves over to the No. 28 car for Yates. Barraclough spent the latter half of 2007 as crew chief for Yates' No. 90 car in what was then the Busch Series. That car finished the 2007 season 19th in owner points. The change was made in large part because of the long history that Barraclough and Gilliland have. Barraclough once worked for Gilliland's father when they were on the West Coast, and their families are considered close. The two worked together in 2006, when the younger Gilliland stunned the NASCAR world with a Busch Series victory at Kentucky. The pairing could bode well for Gilliland, who hasn't won a race during his last 51 Sprint Cup starts.

Jeff Meendering, Petty Enterprises

Driver: Bobby Labonte

Current Team: No. 43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge

Analysis: Meendering takes his shot as a full-time crew chief with the No. 43 team. He replaces Doug Randolph, who moves to the No. 15 car at DEI. Meendering had a successful stint as crew chief on the No. 24 car for Hendrick Motorsports in 2007. In that time, he gained valuable experience as interim crew chief during regular crew chief Steve Letarte's six-week suspension for rules violations. Despite Meendering's success with the team, Hendrick was set at crew chief for the foreseeable future, and Meendering made the move to Petty. Petty sees Meendering as a cornerstone for the development of its racing program. Labonte has recently expressed his excitement to have Meendering aboard.

Paul Andrews, Michael Waltrip Racing

Driver: Michael Waltrip

Current Team: No. 55 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota

Analysis: Andrews takes over as crew chief for the No. 55 car, replacing Buddy Sisco. Andrews comes aboard as part of an overhaul at MWR meant to shake things up after last year's difficulties. Andrews has 30 years of racing experience and has worked for several teams, including Petty Enterprises, Penske Racing and Dale Earnhardt Inc. He and Waltrip are familiar with each other's work: Andrews was crew chief for former DEI driver Steve Park while Waltrip was driving the No. 15 car for DEI. Andrews' background includes a Cup championship with former driver Alan Kulwicki in 1992 as well as 12 career Cup wins and an All-Star victory. Both Andrews and Waltrip failed to put up a win for their respective teams last season. However, both have a lot at stake this season, and that could turn into some positive results on the track.

Kevin Hamlin, Red Bull Racing

Driver: Brian Vickers

Current Team: No. 83 Red Bull Toyota

Analysis: Red Bull was looking for an experienced crew chief that shared Red Bull's "vision for success" and believes it found one in Hamlin. Hamlin comes aboard the No. 83 team as its third crew chief in two seasons. He takes over for Randy Cox, who ran the pits for a handful of races after replacing Doug Richert in October. Hamlin does have significant experience as a crew chief for the likes of Dale Earnhardt Sr., Jeff Burton and Kevin Harvick. Most recently he was the crew chief for Dave Blaney in the No. 22 car at Bill Davis Racing. For his career, Hamlin has registered nine Cup wins, five of which came with Earnhardt. Hamlin offers stability for Vickers, who was arguably Toyota's best driver when he made it onto the track.

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About Jeffrey Price

Price has been a KFFL contributor since January 2008.

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