Ford (pictured, right, with Hamlin) is a crew chief who has been around and knows what it should take to win a title. Being associated with a champion like Joe Gibbs Racing gives him a little bit of an advantage. His No. 11 team has had a hot-and-cold season. When it looked like they were getting ready to have problems with Hamlin’s knee problems, they really turned that negative into a positive. It showed a lot of character and that they have a lot of things going right for them in the early part of the season. Then, after winning five races, they went into a funk that lasted until last week’s race at Richmond. Can they close this deal out?
Shane Wilson (Clint Bowyer)
Knowing where Wilson has come from and his overall experience level, he's done really well. Wilson, Clint Bowyer and that team have had to scratch and claw just to hold onto their 12th position and make the Chase. Does he have anything left in the tank? I just wonder if this fight just to get and stay in has taken too much out of them. I think he is really going to have to rally his troops and get his driver up on the wheel early in this Chase for those guys to be a factor. I think he will be facing the toughest 10 races he ever has as a crew chief. We will find out what kind of head coach and cheerleader Shane Wilson can be.
Jimmy Fennig (Matt Kenseth)
Having won a championship under this format, Fennig knows what has to get done. Unfortunate for him and Kenseth (pictured, right, with Fennig), a former champion himself, is that they know the uphill battle — which includes how they will be judged by their bosses. That pressure, combined with a little bit of a lackadaisical performance by the Ford’s, which I still don’t think are where they need to be, will be tough. If they do win, it’s strictly because these guys are so consistent and they have their own version of smoke and mirrors.
Todd Berrier (Jeff Burton)
Berrier has all the tools and understands what needs to get done, but in some ways, he’s too smart for his own good. If he’s going to have that opportunity to win a championship, he's with the right driver — their mentalities match up to where they can. Burton (pictured, right, with Berrier) is very good at breaking down and explaining his race car, so he will keep Berrier honest and vice-versa over these 10 races.
Bob Osborne (Carl Edwards)
The thing I love about Osborne (pictured, right, with Edwards) is that he is a mixture of a surgeon, a preacher and a poker player. He’s very non-emotional. He is very professional. Sometimes I wonder with that kind of makeup and personality, if he has enough emotion to get the most out of that team and Edwards. Make no mistake, Edwards is a very emotional driver. If you can get Edwards fired up and keep him fired up, well, that is a huge plus for your team. Honestly, I really think Edwards could stand to be a little more fired up right now. He's really intelligent, and he can figure it out with the best of them. So maybe if Osborne could add a little more fire into his repertoire, it would go a long way in getting even more out of his team and driver.
Steve Letarte (Jeff Gordon)
Letarte (pictured, right, with Jeff Gordon) has done everything right this year but win a race. He’s had that car competitive. He’s had it in a position to win. He’s made some great calls throughout the season. Unfortunately, what might still be haunting him are a couple bad calls earlier this year. Overall, he has to be enjoying one of his overall most competitive seasons as a crew chief. I think he has done a really great job. He knows what it is going to take to win the championship, but the question is whether he and his Hendrick Motorsports team can put it all together when crunch time comes.
Greg Erwin (Greg Biffle)
Biffle’s one of those guys that when him and Erwin are good, well they are really good. But when they get off, they tend to search a little too much to get back to home base. They were finally able to help get Roush Fenway and Ford a win in 2010. Both Erwin and Biffle (pictured, left, with Erwin) have experience in the Chase. Now the question becomes can they put it all together in the early part of this Chase. I just don’t believe that if they get too far behind, they can overcome that. To me, an early lead is the key because Greg Biffle thrives off of momentum. Last year, we saw him win the first two Chase races, but he and his team were unable to rally back after some difficulties. So that’s an area to watch this year — can they rally if they stub their toe?
Darian Grubb (Tony Stewart)
Grubb turned a lot of heads last year with the No. 14 team’s performance. But this year, they’ve been mired in a bit of a sophomore slump. Now, we are going to find out how much he learned when he was a part of Hendrick Motorsports because he has been a part of title-winning crews. But he’s never been in a position and had the responsibility he has today. And now that Grubb (pictured, right, with Stewart) is in his second year with Stewart, a lot of people are going to look hard and evaluate him pretty strictly this season. I’m not saying they can’t win, but their performance will be how we rate Grubb as a crew chief.
Steve Addington (Kurt Busch)
Addington has earned a new respect from me. He went into the Penske Racing deal with his eyes wide open. He knew the demeanor of what he is was getting into over there with Kurt Busch, after working with younger brother Kyle. He has definitely brought a lot of information with him from Joe Gibbs Racing that has clearly benefited Penske Racing. I really believe the combination of Addington and Kurt Busch could be the dark-horse contender in our 2010 Chase. If they get hot at some of these tracks, I am just saying, "Watch out."
Dave Rogers (Kyle Busch)
He has a lot of experience in a lot of areas, but Rogers just doesn’t have any on the Chase level. The good news is that he has a depth of experience with those behind him at Joe Gibbs Racing. I always tell folks that with Kyle Busch as his driver, Rogers (pictured, right, with Busch) is holding onto the toe of a comet. There is no reason to think that Busch can’t take Rogers and that entire team straight to the head table at Las Vegas.
Gil Martin (Kevin Harvick)
Right now, he’s got the hot hand and is enjoying his best season ever. I feel his communication with Kevin Harvick is second to none in that garage area right now. If they just keep doing what they have been doing all season, Kevin Harvick could be the one we are talking about after the checkered flag in Homestead as our 2010 champion.
Chad Knaus (Jimmie Johnson)
Knaus is the best one out there right now. He is as savvy and in-tune with his race car and team as anyone in that garage. Just when you think he has shown you everything up his sleeve, well he shows you something else. He pulls yet another thing out of that black bag of his. If anybody can get five championships in a row, that man right there can get it accomplished. I think Knaus has the same type of savvy in knowing his people and knowing his driver like Phil Jackson does in the NBA. He’s literally that good. No matter what they do to the rules, no matter what they do to the cars, Knaus always has it figured out and a plan in place to get to Victory Lane. He’s awesome.