New crew chiefs better learn quick

BY Larry McReynolds • January 27, 2010

When a team gets a new crew chief, it can be quite a complicated process. It doesn't matter if it is a single-car, two-car or even four-car operation, it's a learning curve for the crew chief as well as the driver and the race team.

The crew chief has to learn and learn quickly about his driver. He needs to pick up what the driver's tendencies are. The crew chief also has to learn about the cars they have in their stable. He naturally has to learn about his car chief and also the crew members. I liken it to an NFL team changing its head coach.

Conversely, the driver, the car chief and these same crew members are going to have to quickly learn the demeanor of their new head coach. I mean, he is their new leader and they are going to have to adapt.

Some of the small one-car operations have added crew chiefs here in the last few days. Use Tommy Baldwin Racing for example. Tommy is a great crew chief but you can only wear so many hats. Last year he was trying to be owner, business manager and crew chief all at the same time and that simply won't work.

So now Tommy has a crew chief in place. He hired Kevin Buskirk to work with driver Mike Bliss. That will free up Tommy to concentrate on more areas of the business side of the sport. There's also quite a level of confidence that the new crew chief has knowing that Tommy will be there every day at the race shop and every day at the track to be a sounding board when needed. So I really think this is a great move for Tommy.

Steve Addington, who is now Kurt Busch's crew chief, has some big shoes to fill in replacing Pat Tryson. They won two races last year and made the Chase. They were the highest non-Hendrick Motorsports driver in the Chase. In Steve's case, I see it more of a matter of him adapting to Kurt and the team, than the other way around. That can be a very huge challenge for one man to do.

While Kurt's brother Kyle, also has a new crew chief in Dave Rogers, everyone has to remember those two already worked together on the Nationwide side, plus Dave was in place for the last three or four Cup races of last year.

I think Kyle is in a much better position this year. I honestly think we might see Kyle back in form and putting numbers up on the board like he did in 2008. I think we can expect him to make the Chase. Additionally, I can see him being a serious championship contender. Kyle has also rid himself of some distractions going into this season. He will only run Nationwide and Truck series events when they are companion events on the Cup schedule. That means no more of this going back and forth across the country on a Cup weekend. I think that is a positive move for him.

Also I wanted to mention in listening to the drivers, the crew chiefs and the fans, there sure seems to be a better feel for our sport this year than in a long time. Obviously time will tell and give us some answers but I just think everything is moving in a positive direction. It just feels like to me that everyone is willing to work together to move this sport in the right direction.

I applaud NASCAR for making the changes they have to date to get the sport back to where it was. I am pumped up about this season in so many ways not only because it's the 10th anniversary of NASCAR on FOX. More importantly, I am hearing from the fans that they love the changes NASCAR has made.


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