crew chiefs

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Slugger Labbe exits Richard Childress Racing as Austin Dillon gets crew chief Justin Alexander

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Richard Childress Racing made multiple crew chief changes Monday that included the departure of longtime employee Richard “Slugger” Labbe.

Justin Alexander was named crew chief for Austin Dillon’s No. 3 Chevrolet in replacing Labbe, who is leaving RCR to pursue “other opportunities,” according to the team.

Alexander, who previously worked as the crew chief for Paul Menard, was promoted from RCR’s No. 2 in the Xfinity Series. Randall Burnett, who recently left AJ Allmendinger’s team, will take over Alexander’s job in the Xfinity Series.

Labbe had been a Cup crew chief with RCR since 2010. He initially worked with Menard, who won the 2011 Brickyard 400 with Labbe as crew chief. He had been with Dillon since midway through the 2015 season.

In 500 starts as a Cup crew chief, Labbe has five victories, also winning three times with Michael Waltrip and once with Jeremy Mayfield.

Here’s the release from the team:

Richard Childress Racing Announces Competition Changes to its Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR XFINITY Series Programs

Justin Alexander to take over No. 3 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Crew Chief Role;

Randall Burnett to take over No. 2 XFINITY Series Crew Chief Position

WELCOME, N.C. (May 22, 2017) – Richard Childress Racing has made a change in crew chiefs for its Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR XFINITY Series programs, effective immediately.

Justin Alexander, who has served as the crew chief of the No. 2 Rheem/Menards Chevrolet for RCR and earned two wins last season in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, will assume crew chief responsibilities for the No. 3 Dow/American Ethanol/AAA Chevrolet SS team in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series with driver Austin Dillon. Alexander holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering from North Carolina State University. Prior to RCR, Alexander served in various engineering roles with Hendrick Motorsports. Alexander’s first race in his new role will be for the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 28, replacing Richard “Slugger” Labbe. Labbe is leaving the company to pursue other opportunities.

Randall Burnett, who previously served as a crew chief for RCR’s technical partner JTG Daugherty Racing, will assume a new role as crew chief of the No. 2 Rheem/Menards Chevrolet in the NASCAR XFINITY Series beginning at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 27. Burnett holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering from UNC Charlotte. Prior to JTG Daugherty Racing, he spent 10 years as an engineer at Chip Ganassi Racing.

Jason Stockert named Xfinity crew chief for Michael Annett

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In his first Xfinity Series campaign with JR Motorsports, Michael Annett will be paired with crew chief Jason Stockert.

After three seasons in the Cup Series, Annett will drive JR Motorsport’ No. 5 Chevrolet.

Annett and Stockert have a history together. Stockert served as Annett’s engineer when he drove for Rusty Wallace in the Xfinity Series in 2011.

That year, Annett recorded seven top-10 finishes.

“That’s a huge step in our relationship,” Annett said in a press release. “We’re both pretty quiet and just say stuff when it needs to be brought up. We don’t just spit hot air just to hear ourselves talk. I think our relationship is pretty strong already and it is just going to continue to grow.”

This is will be Stockert’s first time in the role of a crew chief.

“Being my first time doing it as a crew chief, coming into an organization as structured as this is and has the speed in the cars, it was important,” Stockert said a press release. “That’s the same thing Michael wants. He wants to come in and have a car under him that he can run competitively with. We’re both here for that same interest.”

Annett will be teammates with Elliott Sadler, Justin Allgaier and William Byron this season. He’ll make his debut in the No. 5 car on Feb. 25 at Daytona International Speedway.

 

Kurt Busch latest to win with substitute crew chief

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Kurt Busch‘s win Monday at Pocono Raceway earned him admittance to a fairly exclusive club.

Busch is now only the fourth driver in the last 10 years that has won a Sprint Cup race with a substitute crew chief. Due to his suspension for violating NASCAR’s lugnut policy, crew chief Tony Gibson was forced to spend the weekend back home.

In his place was first time crew chief Johnny Klausmeier, who normally serves as the team’s engineer.

“His voice was way more calming than Gibson,” Busch said. “When you have an engineer calculating your fuel, I mean, it’s a calculator. I know Gibson can do it just the same, but when you have a new guy or somebody different and you’re not at your full strength, there’s something that happens to everybody on the team. Everybody pulls harder.”

Klausmeier’s win was the first by a substitute crew chief since the 2013 Southern 500, when Matt Kenseth won with Wally Brown in place of Jason Ratcliff. Ratcliff was absent that day due to a suspension for an underweight connecting rod as Brown won his first Sprint Cup race as a crew chief.

“This to me probably feels bigger than any win in my career,” Kenseth said at the time. “I really feel bad that Jason isn’t here. This is obviously his team and his effort, but Wally did a great job filling in.”

Unlike Busch’s victory, that was the third of seven wins for Kenseth in 2013. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver has gone to victory lane twice in the last 10 years with a substitute crew chief. The first time was in 2007 at Auto Club Speedway. Then with Roush Fenway Racing, Kenseth won with Chip Bolin on the pit box instead of Robbie Reiser.

Reiser was serving a four-race suspension for illegal alterations to Kenseth’s car before qualifying for the Daytona 500.

In 2008, it was Reiser’s turn to be the substitute. Reiser substituted for Bob Osborne on the car of Carl Edwards at Texas Motor Speedway while Osborne served a six-race suspension stemming from violations in the Daytona 500.

Then in 2010, Clint Bowyer won at Talladega Superpeedway with scott Miller on his pit box instead of Shane Wilson, who was serving a four-race suspension for a height violation found on Bowyer’s car six races earlier at New Hampshire.

Last weekend was the first Gibson has missed outright since becoming crew chief for Busch at the end of 2014. Gibson missed a couple of days at Texas in April to take care of his sick wife. Last September, Gibson was at New Hampshire just days after undergoing an emergency appendectomy. Early in 2015, Gibson didn’t return to the pits after a rain delay at Bristol after passing his second kidney stone in 33 days.

Said Busch, “Everybody digs in a little bit deeper, and not having Tony Gibson here today, I know everybody gave that much more, and this is a win for Gibson.”

Report: No. 9 of Brian Scott will have new crew chief

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Kevin Manion is no longer with Richard Petty Motorsports and the No. 9 that will be driven by Brian Scott in 2016 will have a new crew chief according to Motorsport.com.

The report says Manion left RPM Thursday, the day before the announcement that Scott would be taking over the car driven by Sam Hornish Jr. in 2015.

Manion was crew chief on the No. 9 beginning at the spring Kansas race. He replaced Drew Blickensderfer, who was moved to director of research and development.

Motorsport reports Blickensderfer is a candidate to be Scott’s crew chief.

In the absence of a crew chief, Trent Owens, the crew chief on the No. 43 of Aric Almirola, will lead the No. 9 team at the Goodyear tire test at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Monday.

Report: Allmendinger paired with new crew chief for 2016

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A.J. Allmendinger will work with a new crew chief in 2016 according to Motorsport.com.

The report states the No. 47 of JTG/Daugherty Racing will be led by Randall Burnett, who joins the team after working as the team engineer on Kyle Larson‘s No. 42 at Chip Ganassi Racing.

Burnett would replace Brian Burns, who has been crew chief for Allmendinger since the driver joined JTGD in 2013. Together, the two won one race, at Watkins Glen International in 2014, which qualified them for the Chase for the Sprint Cup. In 2015, the team only recorded three top-10 finishes and finished the season 22nd in the point standings.

The report says Burns is staying with the team and notes Burns’ addition to the team follows Ernie Cope’s hiring as competition director.

Burnett, 35, joined Ganassi in 2005 after graduating from UNC Charlotte with a degree in mechanical engineering.

The 33-year-old Allmendinger, who has competed in five full-time Sprint Cup seasons, signed a five-year extension with JTGD in May.