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NASCAR 167 8 Crew chiefs who are an asset with Gen-6 car 31574550 Chad Knaus Chad+Knaus NASCAR

Five-time champion. Need we say more? Jimmie Johnson has excelled from the moment he hit NASCAR - in any car, with any rules. Just look at the history here. Johnson has been a force in every modification of the cars, including last year when Hendrick Motorsports discovered a way to make the cars work better for its drivers. Even when NASCAR removed that option, Johnson was virtually unslowed and was in the championship race until the season finale. If anyone can come out hot in this car, it's Knaus and Co.

 

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Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images for NASCAR - Getty Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2013/02/05/020513-Nascar-Crew-Chiefs-Gallery-DG-G2_20130205142632505_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2013/02/05/020513-Nascar-Crew-Chiefs-Gallery-DG-G2_20130205142632505_107_80.JPG
NASCAR 167 8 Crew chiefs who are an asset with Gen-6 car 31572772 Paul Wolfe Paul+Wolfe NASCAR

Who understands what it takes to make a new car comfortable for a driver who just won a championship in an older one? A crew chief who was once a driver himself. Wolfe is just that. Combine his knowledge of the car, his ability to figure out exactly what Brad Keselowski needs to go fast and his willingness to make a critical and risky call with that car, and this team could pick up right where it left off - running away from the field.

 

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Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR - Getty Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2013/02/05/020513-Nascar-Crew-Chiefs-Gallery-DG-G3_20130205142633509_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2013/02/05/020513-Nascar-Crew-Chiefs-Gallery-DG-G3_20130205142633509_107_80.JPG
NASCAR 167 8 Crew chiefs who are an asset with Gen-6 car 31572774 Alan Gustafson Alan+Gustafson NASCAR

Gordon seems as excited as he's been in years about heading to the track after a series of tests in NASCAR's Gen-6. Clearly, Gustafson has the car working well with his driver - and heading in the right direction. Fresh off winning the season finale, with momentum and the Hendrick expertise in his corner, Gustafson can apply his engineering background to making a quick adjustment to the car if needed. That, and his respect-laden relationship with his four-time championship driver, promises to bring good things for this team in the opening segment.

 

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NASCAR 167 8 Crew chiefs who are an asset with Gen-6 car 31572770 Brian Pattie Brian+Pattie NASCAR

Pattie and Clint Bowyer are on the rise - and intent on remaining that way. Bowyer has long been a threat when he makes the Chase; Pattie is just the kind of crew chief that can get him there year after year. With four career Cup wins to his credit, Pattie's adapted and adjusted to changing organizations quickly when needed over his career. Don't underrate the value that adds now that he's changing cars as well.

 

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NASCAR 167 8 Crew chiefs who are an asset with Gen-6 car 31572771 Jimmy Fennig Jimmy+Fennig NASCAR

You're just not going to get more experience than Fennig brings to the table. He won the 2004 Cup title with Kurt Busch and has 36 career Cup wins to his credit. He's switching to working with Carl Edwards this season - and Edwards has already said that Fennig is changing the way he is approaching this season. With his methodical, no-nonsense approach, Fennig is the kind of crew chief that will certainly have his team in top shape when the transporters roll into Daytona.

 

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Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR - Getty Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2013/02/05/020513-Nascar-Crew-Chiefs-Gallery-DG-G6_20130205142633508_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2013/02/05/020513-Nascar-Crew-Chiefs-Gallery-DG-G6_20130205142633508_107_80.JPG
NASCAR 167 8 Crew chiefs who are an asset with Gen-6 car 31574551 Darian Grubb Darian+Grubb NASCAR

Grubb (left, with Denny Hamlin) brings the knowledge and skill of a champion - he won the 2011 title with Tony Stewart - as well as the history of adjusting to changes. Overall he has 19 career Cup wins, five of them coming last year in his debut season with Hamlin. The pair finished sixth in the standings after a strong start to 2012. Grubb grew up in the Hendrick Motorsports system and understands just what it takes to adjust to change as a group. That could be a key asset for Hamlin when the season starts.

 

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Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR - Getty Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2013/02/05/020513-Nascar-Crew-Chiefs-Gallery-DG-G7_20130205142725513_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2013/02/05/020513-Nascar-Crew-Chiefs-Gallery-DG-G7_20130205142725513_107_80.JPG
NASCAR 167 8 Crew chiefs who are an asset with Gen-6 car 31572776 Kenny Francis Kenny+Francis NASCAR

When Kasey Kahne discusses his long-time crew chief, he talks about how well they understand one another in just a few words - and how well they can succeed together. These two share not only a vision of a championship, but also an understanding of what it will take to get one. Their unique relationship and history of working together could give Kahne an edge with the Gen-6.

 

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NASCAR 167 8 Crew chiefs who are an asset with Gen-6 car 31572775 Steve Addington Steve+Addington NASCAR

Addington is a seasoned veteran accustomed to guiding top drivers to success. In 2008, he worked with Kyle Busch as the driver reeled off eight wins. He has made the Chase for the Sprint Cup with Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch and again in 2012 after joining ranks with Tony Stewart. He has 19 career Cup wins to his credit. He's seen changes to the cars and the sport before - which could put him in strong position to help Stewart grab early wins in this new model.

 

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NASCAR 167 8 Crew chiefs who are an asset with Gen-6 car 31572778 Dave Rogers Dave+Rogers NASCAR

Rogers joined forces with Kyle Busch in November 2009, and they've been winning and challenging since. Busch is an incredible talent capable of reeling off a series of wins at any point. And he did win the first race in NASCAR's last model, the Car of Tomorrow. Rogers and Busch click well and Rogers, who guided Joey Logano to five Nationwide Series wins in 2009, has the ability to help Busch overcome any setbacks in this new model. Together, they have eight career Cup wins and five pole positions. Look for more early this year.

 

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NASCAR 167 8 Crew chiefs who are an asset with Gen-6 car 31572773 Lead the way Lead+the+way+ NASCAR

It's been a rather unusual offseason in NASCAR circles. With the Generation 6 NASCAR Sprint Cup car under development and preparing for its full-season debut, teams have been scrambling to test, learn and study the new model.

Drivers have worked to see just what will be the major differences in terms of driving the Gen-6 while crew chiefs have worked to give each an edge in it. While Daytona looms with a mixture of anxiety and anticipation for teams, some have an advantage in house: the crew chief working on the car.

Some drivers already have an edge simply because of that man making the calls on the new car. So which crew chiefs could vault their drivers to the top early?

 

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Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images - Getty Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2013/02/05/020513-Nascar-Crew-Chiefs-Gallery-DG-G1_20130205142633507_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2013/02/05/020513-Nascar-Crew-Chiefs-Gallery-DG-G1_20130205142633507_107_80.JPG
NASCAR 167 8 Crew chiefs who are an asset with Gen-6 car 31572777 Steve Letarte Steve+Letarte NASCAR

Letarte and Dale Earnhardt Jr. have hit on something together. They joined forces in 2011, finishing seventh in the Chase for the Sprint Cup and then returning to the field in 2012, finishing 12th. They have one victory together - but look primed for more. Letarte, with 11 career Cup wins, is a calming force within the team who systematically works through issues and has the tenacity and skill to put this team on top early this season. Working within and amongst the Hendrick Motorsports elite also gives this team an edge.

 

WATCH DAYTONA 500: FEB. 24 on FOX

COMPLETE GEN-6 COVERAGE

Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR - Getty Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2013/02/05/020513-Nascar-Crew-Chiefs-Gallery-DG-G10_20130205142738517_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2013/02/05/020513-Nascar-Crew-Chiefs-Gallery-DG-G10_20130205142738517_107_80.JPG
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