Match made in heaven? Kurt Busch eager to work with Tony Gibson

Kurt Busch (left) will be paired with crew chief Tony Gibson (right) at Texas Motor Speedway.

Sarah Glenn/Jared C. Tilton

This weekend’s race at Texas Motor Speedway marks a new beginning for Kurt Busch, who will work with crew chief Tony Gibson for the first time.

Stewart-Haas Racing officials announced last week that Gibson would replace rookie crew chief Daniel Knost atop Busch’s No. 41 Haas Automation pit box, while Knost would assume Gibson’s old post as crew chief for SHR driver Danica Patrick.

While Knost carries the "interim" tag into his new role, Gibson does not. So unlike the Knost/Patrick pairing — which may or may not continue into next year — the clear objective for Gibson and Busch is to use the season’s final three races to get a jump-start on 2015.

Despite earning a berth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup with a win at Martinsville in the spring, Busch has endured a rocky first year with Stewart-Haas Racing.

In 33 starts with Knost, the 2004 Sprint Cup champion recorded just six top-five finishes, and only three more top-10s. Entering Sunday’s race in Texas, Busch is 15th in the standings.

Busch expects better results with Gibson, an old-school-style crew chief who has been in the sport for some three decades and worked with the likes of Alan Kulwicki, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Ryan Newman among others.

"There won’t be a question of respect or lack of confidence with Tony Gibson because I know he’s been around to do it and knows exactly what has to happen at each type of track," Busch said. "Until now, I’ve felt like I’ve worn a mentor hat or wore a hat of helping the crew chief (Knost) understand the pitfalls he was going to experience this year. I’ve enjoyed it. I was hoping to build a consistency, and that’s what we didn’t get done. Winning a race and getting in the Chase, that wasn’t all that the 41 car was here to do. It’s to be competitive week-in and week-out and have consistent shots at winning.

"I’d consider the year a success, but there are certain areas we can look at that we did what we wanted to, and there are certain areas that we looked at that we know we can do a better job."

Stewart-Haas confirms team swap for Kurt Busch, Danica Patrick

Gibson’s appointment to crew chief on the No. 41 isn’t the only change on Busch’s team beginning this weekend. The mechanics, engineers and entire road crew for the No. 41 are all new, as well, having spent the entire season to this point on Patrick’s team.

Spotter Rick Carelli and the members of the No. 41 pit crew are the only holdovers from the group with which Busch began the 2014 season.

"I’m looking forward to Texas, first off, because it’s a track I’m very comfortable with," said Busch, whose lone win at the 1.5-mile venue came with Penske Racing in fall 2009. "It’s a bread-and-butter type track for me. It fits my driving style. I go to Texas every race looking for a top-10 finish. But now I’m jumping in with Tony Gibson and making the crew change, so we’ll have to be patient with things. We’ll have to look at each of the sessions that we’re out on the racetrack and really move forward as a group with those first few steps being important, and not trying to go for that all-out win on the first weekend out of the box together. I’m looking forward to using what has been a good track for me toward working with a new team."

With NASCAR’s new testing ban set to take effect after the season, Busch is thankful that Stewart-Haas officials decided to make the team swap now, as opposed to over the winter.

Danica Patrick on new crew chief: 'I'm not scared of change'

"With the testing ban that’s being imposed for 2015, it makes sense for us to make this change now and get ahead of that," he said. "While there will be numerous rule changes that will change many facets of the package that we’ll have to race with next season, making this change now gives myself and Danica a couple of weeks to get a baseline established with our new teams.

"Making this move beginning at Texas will help myself and Tony Gibson establish a good sense of communication — for me to be able to communicate to him what I need out of my race car, and for him to be able to anticipate the direction to go with changes."