Think being a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series crew chief is easy? Think again.
The turnover rate among Cup crew chiefs is staggering, and it doesn’t take much for driver-crew chief relationships to go sour: A stretch of poor results, burnout, communication issues and, yes, even ego issues can rapidly torpedo relationships.
How bad is it? Heading into the 2016 Cup season, just five teams have employed the same driver-crew chief combination for each of the past three seasons. Not surprisingly, success has been a common denominator for four of those five teams.
Joey Logano/Todd Gordon, 3 years — Moving to Team Penske and pairing up with Gordon has done wonders for Logano. In 2014, Logano won a then career-high five races, bettering that last year, when he won six times.
Matt Kenseth/Jason Ratcliff, 3 years — Ironically enough, Ratcliff was Logano’s crew chief in 2012. But when Kenseth took over the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota a year later, he immediately had great success, winning seven races in 2013 and five more last season.
Casey Mears/Bootie Barker, 5 years — Although Mears, Barker and the small, single-car Germain Racing team haven’t posted the kind of numbers that the mega-teams have, clearly they are all comfortable working together.
Brad Keselowski/Paul Wolfe, 5 years — Keselowski won the 2012 Cup championship with Wolfe at the helm and has posted two other top-five points finishes, as well as 16 race victories since the two began working together. This duo delivered team owner Roger Penske his first Cup title as an owner.
Jimmie Johnson/Chad Knaus, 14 years — The gold standard of driver/crew chief combinations has produced 73 race victories and six Sprint Cup championships (two of Johnson’s 75 career wins came in 2006 when Knaus was serving a suspension). Despite all that, Johnson and Knaus, like every combination, have had their occasional dust-ups on the radio and in the garage.