Chad Johnston has signed on as the new crew chief for Tony Stewart and the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing team. He’ll begin his new position in December.
“It’s a great opportunity for me to be put with someone like Tony Stewart who is a proven winner, a proven champion,” Johnston said. “Obviously, the expectations are high so I’m looking forward to prove what I can do and prove that I deserve this position.”
The second-generation racer most recently worked for Michael Waltrip Racing as Martin Truex Jr.’s crew chief. Following a stint with Evernham Motorsports, he joined MWR in 2009 and became Pat Tryson’s engineer the following season. At the June Pocono race, Johnston was promoted to crew chief. In their first full season together, Truex and the No. 56 team qualified for the Chase. This season, Johnston guided the team back to Victory Lane with the win at Sonoma.
After graduating from Indiana State with a degree in mechanical engineering, the 33-year-old Cayuga, Ind., native worked in the aerospace industry before his passion for racing carried him to NASCAR and the Camping World Truck Series in 2004. That’s where he first had the opportunity to work with Stewart.
Despite Stewart’s returning in February from six months on the sideline after breaking his tibia and fibula Aug. 5 in a Sprint Car race at Southern Iowa Speedway, Johnston believes the 42-year-old three-time champion will be back to winning form.
“It’s like riding a bike,” Johnston said. “Tony Stewart will drive the wheels off anything – doesn’t matter what it is, doesn’t matter if he drives it once or drives it 100 times. I think everybody’s expectations will be to win races and to finish up front every week and make a run at the Chase next year.”
Johnston replaces Steve Addington on the No. 14 Chevy; Addington had been the crew chief for the past two seasons. Addington is expected to go to Phoenix Racing as crew chief in 2014.
Johnston joins fellow SHR newcomer Rodney Childers, who worked with Johnston at MWR and Evernham prior to accepting the crew chief position on the No. 4 Chevy with Kevin Harvick.
“It will be a big advantage to have Rodney start early and get his feet underneath him,” Johnston said. “I think that will help my learning curve. We know how each other works. They’ve got a lot of strong people in key positions over there that I think will help me get up to speed quicker. It’s just a matter of learning the people and the processes.
“I’ve not had a lot of experience with a lot of drivers. As a crew chief, I’ve only worked with Martin. So that will be different. It took a little time to know my job and to know Martin, so to learn someone else and to learn the lingo – when he talks about the car and what it needs – I hope to get up to speed really quick.”
SHR also announced several other changes. Daniel Knost will be the crew chief for the No. 41 car of Kurt Busch, who was added as the team’s fourth driver for 2014. Rodney Childers will be the crew chief for the No. 4 car of Kevin Harvick. Matt Borland will transition from crew chief to vice president of engineering, while Greg Zipadelli will manage all four Sprint Cup teams as SHR’s vice president of competition.