mike bugarewicz

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Clint Bowyer, Aric Almirola look for crew chief changes to spark teams

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Clint Bowyer and Aric Almirola each say the crew chief swaps are ways to make their teams better after each failed to win a race this past season.

While both Bowyer and Almirola made the playoffs, neither was a factor. Almirola was eliminated in the first round. Bowyer failed to advance beyond the second round. Bowyer finished ninth in points. Almirola was 14th.

“We don’t want to be satisfied with just making the playoffs,” Almirola said Wednesday, a day before the NASCAR Awards Show (8 p.m. ET Thursday on NBCSN). “You want to make a run in the playoffs like we did last year and win races. Unfortunately we didn’t do that.”

Mike Bugarewicz will be paired with Almirola after spending the past three seasons with Bowyer. Johnny Klausmeier will be paired with Bowyer after spending the past two seasons with Almirola.

Stewart-Haas Racing has struggled to have its three other cars match the consistent success of Kevin Harvick and crew chief Rodney Childers. Harvick won the 2014 title in his first season at SHR. This year marked the fifth time he’s made it to the championship race in Miami in the six years of the format. No other SHR team has made it to the championship Cup race. Harvick’s team also was the only SHR car to win a race in 2019, scoring four victories.

“You look at teams like Kevin and Rodney and the success they’ve had,” Bowyer said. “They click. All the successful pairings are that way. Obviously this is an effort to try to find a little bit more of that fit factor. I’m looking forward to it. I think it’s going to be a good fit thing for all of us. Definitely excited about what’s to come and getting things started with Johnny.”

Bowyer said he and Bugarewicz didn’t fit as well because they were too much alike.

“I really enjoyed Mike and all the guys on that team,” said Bowyer, who won two races with Bugarewicz in 2018. “Sometimes we’re too much the same. When I get fired up, he gets fired up and then we butt heads. You need a little bit of the opposites attract thing like a marriage.”

Stewart-Haas Racing announces 2020 Cup driver-crew chief lineup

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Stewart-Haas Racing announced Wednesday it is shaking up its driver-crew chief lineup for the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season, with Rodney Childers the only crew chief staying in place.

Mike Shiplett will move up to the Cup Series to crew chief Cole Custer in his rookie season in the No. 41 Ford. Together, Custer and Shiplett won seven Xfinity Series races in 2019 and finished second to Tyler Reddick in the standings.

Shiplett returns to the Cup Series for the first time since 2011 when he was crew chief for A.J. Allmendinger in 19 races at Richard Petty Motorsports. He takes the place of Billy Scott, who was crew chief for Daniel Suarez‘ only season in the No. 41.

A team spokesperson confirmed to NBC Sports that Scott is no longer with SHR as he pursues other opportunities.

SHR is swapping crew chiefs on the No. 14 and No. 10 cars, with Mike Bugarewicz now paired with Aric Almirola on the No. 10 and John Klausmeier paired with Clint Bowyer on the No. 14.

Klausmeier worked with Almirola for the last two seasons as they earned one win (Talladega II, 2018) and made the playoffs both years.

Bugarewicz has led the No. 14 team since 2016, where he was Tony Stewart’s crew chief for his last NASCAR season before being paired with Bowyer in 2017. They won two races together in 2018 (Martinsville I, Michigan I) but went winless in 2019.

SHR also confirmed the No. 10 and No. 14 teams will be switching their crews, with the exception of their pit crews.

Childers will be paired with Kevin Harvick for a seventh year. Since 2014 they have produced 26 victories, one championship and have made the Championship 4 in five of six years.

“Our biggest asset at Stewart-Haas Racing is our people, and we strive to put each person in the best position to succeed,” said Greg Zipadelli, the team’s vice president of competition, in a press release. “Our driver/crew chief pairings for next season reflect this ideology, and we believe this lineup provides the best opportunity to win every time we unload our Ford Mustangs at the racetrack.”

Penalty report from Bristol Motor Speedway

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NASCAR has issued three fines to Cup Series crew chiefs for unsecured lug nuts following Saturday’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Paul Wolfe, crew chief on Brad Keselowski‘s No. 2 Ford, Alan Gustafson, crew chief on Chase Elliott‘s No. 9 Chevrolet and Michael Bugarewicz, crew chief on Clint Bowyer‘s No. 14 Ford, have each been fined $10,000 for having one unsecured lug nut.

Those fines are in addition to the points penalties against Tyler Reddick‘s Xfinity Series team (10 driver and owner points) for failing pre-qualifying inspection four times.

NASCAR also indefinitely suspended Bayley Currey for violating its substance abuse policy.

Clint Bowyer’s overtime charge at Pocono nets points bounty

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The days of top-10 finishes or crashes are the obvious ones that can impact a driver’s bid to make the playoffs but it is the less obvious finishes that can mean just as much, if not more.

Overshadowed by Denny Hamlin’s victory, Erik Jones again coming close and Joe Gibbs Racing going 1-2-3, was Clint Bowyer‘s drive in the final laps of Sunday’s race at Pocono Raceway and how that could play a key role if he makes the playoffs.

Bowyer, who had an up-and-down day, was eighth on a restart four laps from the scheduled end but dropped to 18th before the caution came out for an incident involving Kurt Busch, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Michael McDowell.

Stuck that far back, Stewart-Haas Racing crew chief Mike Bugarewicz decided to have Bowyer pit for four tires. Most of the lead-lap cars stayed out. Bowyer restarted overtime 20th.

He rallied to finish 11th.

That’s nine points Bowyer gained in overtime. He left Pocono 12 points ahead of Jimmie Johnson, the first driver outside a playoff spot.

“That was a long hard day,” Bowyer said. “We were up and down. It was so tough to pass, so everything boiled down to fuel and tire strategy.”

The 11th-place result marked Bowyer’s second finish of 11th or better in the last five races. When the series left Pocono in June, he was 10th in points and seemed to be a safe pick to make the playoffs but accidents ended his race early at Michigan (35th), Chicagoland (37th) and Daytona (34th), putting him in a spot where every position — and point — is critical to his playoff hopes.

Five races remain in the regular season before the playoff field is set. The Cup series races this weekend at Watkins Glen (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN) and then goes to Michigan, Bristol, Darlington and Indianapolis before the playoffs begin Sept. 15 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Clint Bowyer, Denny Hamlin salvage top 10s after pit road penalties

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MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Clint Bowyer places at least some of the blame on his two pit road speeding penalties Sunday at Martinsville Speedway with what happened Saturday at the half-mile short track.

Bowyer, who placed seventh in a failed attempt to defend his STP 500 win, would like better pit road conditions to work with.

“It’s so hard to practice pit road speed,” a dispirited Bowyer said on pit road after his second top 10 of the season. “You’ve got (Gander Outdoors) Trucks on pit road when we’re trying to practice that. I’m not making any excuses. When you’re trying to pinch it for every little thing out of it. It’s hard this week to practice pit road speed because of all the stuff on pit road.”

After he placed sixth in Stage 1 and eighth in Stage 2, Bowyer’s No. 14 was caught speeding the first time on Lap 314 after he pitted from third place. Bowyer was able to make it up to 13th in the next 60 laps.

Then on his next trip to pit road, Bowyer was again dinged for speeding.

“I guess we need to get our stuff together on being on the same page with that pit road stuff,” Bowyer said. “That’s such an important thing, such a big part of this style of racing where track position is everything. We push it to the limit.”

Before he pitted for a final time with just under 55 laps to go, Bowyer was told by crew chief Mike Bugarewicz they had figured out he wasn’t running close enough to the pit wall in the section the penalties occurred.

Bowyer didn’t speed and restarted eighth.

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver claimed his first top 10 since he placed fifth at Atlanta.

“I don’t think anybody had anything for (race winner Brad Keselowski),” Bowyer said. “But I think we were a top-three car for sure. We just kept beating ourselves.”

Bowyer wasn’t the only driver to salvage a decent finish after a pit road penalty.

After an uncontrolled tire penalty on Lap 265, Denny Hamlin roared back to finish fifth for the second time in the last three races.

“We lost a lot of spots on pit road even before that, and then just went to the back like we do most races and came back to fifth,” Hamlin said. “When you don’t have the best car, you have to pretty much execute perfectly. We didn’t, but it wouldn’t have mattered because the best car didn’t falter.”
Hamlin had stage finishes of fourth and third before the pit penalty occurred
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver has two consecutive top fives at Martinsville and 14 in his 27 career starts.
“We kind of got back to where we kind of belonged, and that was the end of it,” Hamlin said. “We have to get a little better with the handling to handle right where (Keselowski is) at.”