Fantasy NASCAR: Crew chief changes

by C.J. Radune on February 11, 2010 @ 00:00:00 PDT


Crew chief changes can affect racing teams in a kinds of ways. Chemistry is built and stripped away every year; let's check out who has moved around for the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup series.

Buddy Sisco

Driver: Terry Cook
Current Team: No. 46 Dodge - Whitney Motorsports
Former Team: No. 73 Dodge - H&S Motorsports

Analysis: Sisco is a veteran crew chief who now has the task of assembling a team to support rookie driver Terry Cook from scratch. With all of his experience, Sisco was a wise choice for the endeavor, but the task is still huge. Sisco will continue working with Dodge cars, as he has in prior seasons, and also have the benefit of not building his own chassis out of the box. With Richard Petty Motorsports merging with Yates Racing and switching to Ford, Whitney Motorsports will purchase a number of race-ready Dodge chassis from Richard Petty Motorsports. That is a big head start for this brand new team who can use any head start they can find.

Doug Richert

Driver: TBA
Current Team: No. 90 Chevrolet - Keyed-Up Motorsports
Former Team: Gunselman Motorsports

Analysis: Richert was the crew chief for Dale Earnhardt's first championship and was also the crew chief for 10 of Greg Biffle's wins. More recently, Richert worked with a struggling Brian Vickers at Red Bull Racing, before the team started firing on all cylinders. Shortly after that failed partnership Richert turned up at Dale Earnhardt Inc., where he worked with driver Regan Smith for the first part of 2008. There, too, he was replaced. Last year, after leaving Gunselman Racing, Robby Gordon named Richert as his chief for the final five races of the season. Richert has the experience needed to get the job done in NASCAR Sprint Cup but has floundered the past three years or so. This is a start-up team and may struggle to qualify for races throughout the season regardless of Richert's abilities.

Ryan Coniam

Driver: Regan Smith
Current Team: No. 78 Chevrolet - Furniture Row Racing
Former Team: N/A

Analysis: Coniam will enter his rookie season as a crew chief after being promoted to run Furniture Row Racing's No. 78 machine for driver Regan Smith. Prior to joining Furniture Row, Coniam was an engineer at Michael Waltrip Racing. In that position he engineered Michael McDowell's Cup efforts. Coniam spent time as a liaison who worked between Germain Racing and MWR while also engineering the car for Max Papis. With a clean slate, we have a hard time predicting what effect Coniam will have on Furniture Row and Smith. His experience shows that he knows his way around a car, but the crew chief position involves a lot more team management. We haven't publicly seen Coniam perform in that role yet, though. The No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet finished 2009 40th in the owner's standings and will need Coniam to quickly nail setups for Smith's qualifying efforts.

Steve Addington

Driver: Kurt Busch
Current Team: No. 2 Dodge - Penske Championship Racing
Former Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

Analysis: Addington switches Busch brothers, and teams, to take the reins of the No. 2 entry at Penske Championship Racing for 2010. Addington spent the past two seasons with Kurt's brother Kyle and the pairing won 12 races. While Addington's relationship with Kyle seemed a bit strained at times, success was evident. The team nevertheless failed to make the Chase in 2009 and decided to part ways. Addington and Kurt spent a good deal of time talking to one another after Busch's former crew chief Pat Tryson announced his departure from Penske. The two buy into one another's philosophies and look to be the most promising new pairing heading into the 2010 season due to the resources available at Penske and Addington and Busch's shared philosophy.

Donnie Wingo

Driver: David Ragan
Current Team: No. 6 Ford - Roush Fenway Racing
Former Team: Roush Fenway Racing

Analysis: With Ragan's completely disappointing results in 2009 something had to change in the No. 6 garage. That change came as Jamie McMurray's former crew chief Donnie Wingo was named as replacement to Jimmie Fennig, who has taken a role in Roush Fenway Racing's research and development area. Ragan suffered in 2009 with just two top-10 race finishes and a 27th-place finish in the points. McMurray on the other hand, one-upped Ragan by scoring a win. The good thing for Ragan here is that both Fennig and Wingo are still resident in the organization. If two heads are better than one, three heads have to be even greater. If Wingo can't help Ragan succeed this year, Ragan may be shopping for a new employer.

Doug Randolph

Driver: Bobby Labonte
Current Team: No. 71 Chevrolet - TRG Motorsports
Former Team: Richard Childress Racing

Analysis: Randolph called the shots on Casey Mears' No. 07 Chevrolet at Richard Childress Racing in 2009. That RCR team ended the season 21st in points with four top-10 results and has now disbanded. Randolph is reuniting with Labonte in 2010, this time at TRG Motorsports, after having worked together in 2007 at Petty Enterprises. TRG provided a few strong runs in 2009; they will now bring together a crew chief and driver with vast experience and understanding with one another. The team played musical chairs with drivers last season but still managed a brief foray into the top 35 in owner's points. The team should come to races well-prepared to qualify and make solid top-35 runs in 2010.

Pat Tryson

Driver: Martin Truex Jr.
Current Team: No. 56 Toyota - Michael Waltrip Racing
Former Team: Penske Championship Racing

Analysis: Tryson helped Kurt Busch finish a solid fourth in the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup standings. Truex, on the other hand, has never worked with a crew chief in Cup other than Kevin Manion. Truex has been in Cup for four years, with the same team and crew chief. The next season will truly be a transition year for the driver. If Tryson and Truex click, the sky is the limit for this combination. Michael Waltrip Racing is looking strong with David Reutimann winning his first race in 2009, and Truex's best is yet to come by the majority of opinions. This could be a partnership for the future and may be a formidable threat in 2011.

Jay Guy

Driver: Brad Keselowski
Current Team: No. 22 Dodge - Penske Championship Racing
Former Team: Furniture Row Racing

Analysis: Furniture Row Racing's No. 78 entry finished 40th in 2009 with Jay Guy on top of the pit box. While the team struggled, lack of funding was probably the biggest contributor to the lack of success. With Penske Championship Racing, Guy enters a solid organization with plenty of resources at his disposal. The No. 22 is a new entry at Penske and will take some effort to get off of the ground. Keselowski has already won his first Sprint Cup race, though, which could make life just a little bit less stressful for the new pairing. Penske had a resurgent season in 2009 with Busch finishing fourth in the championship, so there is already a model to follow for Guy. If Guy can collaborate well with the established teams at Penske, good things could be in store for the No. 22 entry.

Slugger Labbe

Driver: Paul Menard
Current Team: No. 98 Ford - Richard Petty Motorsports
Former Team: TRG Motorsports

Analysis: Menard finished the 2009 season in 31st position securing a guaranteed starting position for the opening rounds of the 2010 season. The new season will bring a lot of changes for Menard, though. Yates Racing is merging with Richard Petty Motorsports, and those RPM teams are making the switch from Dodge to Ford. Menard will be one of the drivers lending a hand to last year's RPM competitors who all fielded Dodge cars in the past. The bonus for Menard is that he will have all the resources the combined Petty and Evernham organization can offer. While Yates Racing is no slouch on its own, their performances trailed off while Petty was stepping up its game. Look for the Labbe-Menard combination to improve Menard's results in 2010, but we still question the race-winning pedigree.

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About C.J. Radune

Radune has been a KFFL contributor since January 2008.

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