Drew Blickensderfer to be crew chief for Aric Almirola

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Drew Blickensderfer joins Stewart-Haas Racing to be Aric Almirola‘s crew chief this season, the team announced Tuesday.

Blickensderfer was Almirola’s crew chief for 35 races in 2016-17 when they were at Richard Petty Motorsports.

Mike Bugarewicz, who was Almirola’s crew chief last season, will be the organization’s performance director.

“With the NextGen car being brand new, there will be continuous development on it every time it turns a wheel,” said Greg Zipadelli, SHR’s vice president of competition, in a statement from the team.

“Going into it, we knew we needed to shore up our resources and really bolster our competitive approach. (Bugarewicz) is the right guy to tackle all the newness that’s coming at us pretty fast. He’s an engineer, and he’s also a racer. He will be that glue between simulation, at-track reality, engineering and our race teams, and his laser-like focus in this new role of performance director will be a huge asset to our team.”

Blickensderfer is a two-time Daytona 500 winner, capturing it in 2009 with Matt Kenseth and last season with Michael McDowell.

“Drew has been in the sport a long time and knows how to get the best out of the people around him, and that’s really what the job of crew chief has become,” Zipadelli said. “We have the same parts and pieces, but what we do with those parts and pieces will make the difference. Drew has worked with a lot of drivers and managed a lot of people. He already has a rapport with Aric, and that will make the learning curve in a season full of learning a little less steep.”

Stewart-Haas Racing also announced that the rest of its driver/crew chief combination remains intact: Crew chief Rodney Childers will be back with Kevin Harvick for a ninth season. Crew chief John Klausmeier returns with Chase Briscoe. Crew chief Mike Shiplett is back with Cole Custer. Also, Richard Boswell will remain crew chief of the organization’s Xfinity team with Riley Herbst.