Danica Patrick, Tony Stewart get new crew chiefs in Stewart-Haas Racing overhaul


Stewart-Haas Racing reshuffled half of its crew chief lineup Monday, naming new team leaders for Tony Stewart and Danica Patrick.

Michael Bugarewicz, the lead engineer for Kevin Harvick’s No. 4 Chevrolet the past two seasons, was shifted to take over Stewart’s No. 14 team in the 2016 Sprint Cup season.

Billy Scott, who was a crew chief for Clint Bowyer, Brian Vickers, David Ragan and Michael Waltrip last season at Michel Waltrip Racing, was named to become Patrick’s third Sprint Cup crew chief in three years.

Scott replaces Daniel Knost, who was promoted to a senior leadership position within SHR as a manager of vehicle dynamics.

Bugarewicz takes over for Chad Johnston, who left to become Kyle Larson’s crew chief after two seasons with Stewart.

Bugarewicz began his NASCAR career at Roush Fenway Racing’s engineering department in 2005. He was the race engineer for Matt Kenseth (2011-12) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (’13) before joining SHR in 2014 to help Harvick win his first Sprint Cup championship.

Bugarewicz, 33, is from Lehighton, Pa., and graduated from Penn State University with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering (’04) and a master’s in mechanical engineering (’05).

Stewart, who is entering the final season of his NASCAR career, finished 28th in the 2015 standings with a career-low three top 10s.

“We have great people at Stewart-Haas Racing and these changes prove that,” Stewart said in a statement. “We were able to promote from within while also adding new talent.

“Change isn’t easy, and that’s particularly true when it comes to my relationship with Chad Johnston. He served as my crew chief during two very difficult seasons. He was always supportive and he’s become like a brother to me. I think very highly of Chad and wish him nothing but the best in his new opportunity.”

Scott, 38, graduated from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in 2005 and worked in stock cars, sports cars and sprint cars before joining MWR in 2008. The Land O’ Lakes, Fla., native worked as an engineer for the team under Rodney Childers, who has been Harvick’s crew chief at SHR the past two seasons.

Scott becomes the third crew chief for Patrick since she entered NASCAR’s premier series full time in 2013. She finished a career-best 24th in the 2015 points standings, her first full season with Knost.

Knost, 36, will oversee several SHR technical efforts with a focus on track simulation and race car performance. In two seasons as a crew chief, he led Kurt Busch to the 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup through a March 2014 win at Martinsville Speedway.

The team will keep its crew chiefs intact for Harvick (Childers) and Busch (Tony Gibson). Both teams made the Chase and combined for five wins in 2015.

“We made these changes after thoroughly evaluating our program to ensure that all four of our teams are consistently strong and competitive,” SHR vice president of competition Greg Zipadelli said in a release. “In this business, you can’t rest and you can never be satisfied. You have to constantly improve. We feel these personnel changes enhance our strengths and shore up areas where we needed to be better.”


Alex Bowman confident as he returns to racing from back injury


CONCORD, N.C. — Alex Bowman watched the rain-filled skies over Charlotte Motor Speedway Saturday with more than a touch of disappointment.

As weather threatened to cancel Saturday night’s scheduled NASCAR Cup Series practice at the speedway, Bowman saw his chances to testing his car — and his body — dissolving in the raindrops. NASCAR ultimately cancelled practice and qualifying because of rain.

MORE: Wet weather cancels Charlotte Cup practice, qualifying

Bowman suffered a fractured vertebra in a sprint car accident last month and has missed three Cup races while he recovers. Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600, the season’s longest race, is scheduled to mark his return to the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet.

“It would have been really nice to kickstart that with practice today,” Bowman said. “I haven’t raced or competitively driven a race car in a month. I’m trying to understand where my rusty areas are going to be and where I’m still good.”

Bowman ran 200 laps in a test season at North Wilkesboro Speedway this week, but, of course, that doesn’t compare with the faster speeds and tougher G-forces he’ll experience over 400 laps Sunday at CMS.

Bowman admitted that he is still experiencing pain from the back injury — his car flipped several times — and that he expects some pain during the race. But he said he is confident he’ll be OK and that the longer race distance won’t be an issue.

“I broke my back a month ago, and there’s definitely things that come along with that for a long time,” he said. “I have some discomfort here and there and there are things I do that don’t feel good. That’s just part of it. It’s stuff I’ll have to deal with. But, for the most part, I’m back to normal.

“I’m easing back into being in the gym. I’m trying to be smart with things. If I twist the wrong way, sometimes it hurts. In the race car at the end of a six-hour race, I’m probably not going to be the best.”

The sprint car crash interrupted what had been a fine seasonal start for Bowman. Although winless, he had three top fives and six top 10s in the first 10 races.

“I’m excited to be back,” Bowman said. “Hopefully, we can pick up where we left off and be strong right out of the gate.”

He said he hopes to return to short-track racing but not in the near future.

“Someday I want to get back in a sprint car or midget,” he said. “I felt like we were just getting rolling in a sprint car. That night we were pretty fast. Definitely a bummer there. That’s something I really want to conquer and be competitive at in the World of Outlaws or High Limits races. Somebody I’ll get back to that. It’s probably smart if I give my day job a little alone time for a bit.”




Charlotte NASCAR Cup Series starting lineup: Rain cancels qualifying


CONCORD, N.C. — William Byron and Kevin Harvick will start Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series 600-mile race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on the front row after wet weather cancelled Saturday night qualifying.

Rain pelted the CMS area much of the day Saturday, and NASCAR announced at 3:45 p.m. that Cup practice and qualifying, scheduled for Saturday night, had been cancelled.

MORE: Alex Bowman confident as he returns to cockpit

The starting field was set by the NASCAR rulebook.

Following Byron and Harvick in the starting top 10 will be Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Bubba Wallace, Ryan Blaney, Christopher Bell and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

The elimination of the practice session was particularly problematic for Alex Bowman, scheduled to return to racing Sunday after missing three weeks with a back injury, and Jimmie Johnson, who will be starting only his third race this year. Johnson will start 37th — last in the field.

Charlotte Cup starting lineup

Wet weather cancels Charlotte Cup Series practice, qualifying


CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR Cup Series drivers will start the longest race of the season with no practice or qualifying.

Wet weather and predictions of more to come led NASCAR to cancel Saturday night’s Cup Series practice and qualifying in mid-afternoon. The field for Sunday’s 600-mile race was set by the NASCAR rulebook, placing William Byron and Kevin Harvick on the front row for the  scheduled 6 p.m. start.

MORE: Charlotte Cup starting lineup

MORE: Alex Bowman confident as he returns to cockpit

Weather also could be an issue Sunday as more rain is predicted for the speedway area.

Drivers were scheduled to practice at 7 p.m. Saturday. That session was to be followed by qualifying at 7:45 p.m. The cancellations were announced at 3:45 p.m.

The time-trial cancellation marked the first time in 64 years that qualifying has been canceled for the 600.

Charlotte Xfinity race postponed to Monday by weather


CONCORD, N.C. — Persistent rain forced the postponement of Saturday’s scheduled 300-mile NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway to Monday.

The race is scheduled to start at noon ET. It will be televised by FS1 and broadcast by the Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Driver introductions and other pre-race activities were held at the track Saturday, but rain that had dampened the track in the morning hours returned. After several attempts at drying the track, the race was postponed after heavier rain returned in mid-afternoon.

Justin Allgaier will start the race from the pole position.