Crew chief Rudy Fugle strives to be a fast learner at Hendrick


Rudy Fugle knows what winning with an elite team is like.

Over the past eight seasons with Kyle Busch Motorsports, the 36-year-old crew chief contributed to 28 victories and seven championships (five owner’s titles, two driver titles) in the Camping World Truck Series.

It’s one thing to have success in the Truck Series. But more is expected when joining one of the flagship organizations in the Cup Series.

Fugle is getting his opportunity to do it as he joins Hendrick Motorsports as the new crew chief for William Byron, five years after their first stint together at KBM.

While times have changed for both, getting up to speed there hasn’t been Fugle’s main focus in the last few weeks.

Instead, it’s been learning the ins and outs of a Cup Series machine.

“I am trying to soak up as much information as fast as I can so that I can have intelligent conversations about this specific race car that we’re racing weekly,” he said Thursday in a Zoom teleconference.

“… It’s just the cars are different aero and suspension and different things than the Trucks I’ve worked on. When you work with a team long enough, all that stuff is embedded in your brain and you know everything like the back of your hand.

“I’m trying to make it where I know all that stuff as much as possible so I can help make those decisions and know as much as possible to make things better when I’m asked upon.”

Helping him get acclimated will be one of the great crew chiefs of all time.

Fugle is replacing future Hall of Fame crew chief Chad Knaus, who oversees all four of Hendrick’s Cup programs as vice president of competition.

When asked how he sees his working relationship with Knaus going, Fugle indicated he’d be all ears when the seven-time champion has advice to give.

“Naturally, I think I’m an inquisitive person and I’m confident in what I know,” Fugle said. “I’m definitely going to listen more than I speak when I speak to somebody like that, but I think that’s just respect, right? You have a huge amount of respect for people, and for somebody that’s done what Chad has done.

“He’s a legend; just to even say it like that, he just is. You figure out how to talk to him and be respectful – and I don’t mean that in the wrong way. What’s the best way to be prepared to get somebody’s time and then ask the inquisitive questions the right way, I guess is the right way to say that.”

Also helping is a sense of familiarity and not just with Byron.

On his first day with the organization, Knaus took Fugle for a tour of the sprawling Hendrick campus in Concord, North Carolina.

As it turned out, Fugle already knew “more than half the people” either from college, previous jobs, or “from some race track somewhere.”

With the getting-to-know-you phase somewhat averted, Fugle has quickly settled in to prepare for 2021.

“Everybody on the No. 24 (team) – the majority of them were there last year,” he said. “And I’m the new guy. And that’s okay.

“They’re showing me the ropes and everything they’re doing, and I’m picking holes or what could be holes in the thing, because I’m seeing it a different way than they’ve looked at it and trying to come up with a new way to solve a problem.”