I had an interesting email today from a reader regarding the pit crew changes made by Robbie Reiser and the Roush Fenway Cup teams. During the weeks leading up to the Chase, the crew chiefs and management at RFR decided to make some changes to some of their pit crews in order to strengthen certain teams heading into the Chase. During the Cup race Sunday, it appeared to some that these changes hurt Jamie McMurray’s #26 team, and possibly cost him a good finish.
Over the course of this season, Greg Biffle had expressed publicly his dissatisfaction with his #16 pit crew on several occasion. There were a few races where Biffle’s runs were hurt by mistakes and miscues on pit road, and he wasn’t afraid to call his guys out. Even with the trouble, Biffle was still able to put together some strong performances and get into the Chase.
The Roush team that had pit crew issues that you probably didn’t hear about was Carl Edwards’ #99. I know there were several races where the team just wasn’t where it needed to be, and through the season a few changes were made.
Some of the moves made by the team included swapping out stronger personnel from the #26 team to the teams in the Chase. This was made evident during the race at Dover, when McMurray’s reconfigured team lost him several spots in the pits on two consecutive stops. McMurray was later involved in a wreck with the lapped car of Robby Gordon which took him out of contention for the race.
I understand some fans are angry about what looks to be inequality between the Roush teams, but coming into the Chase, Reiser and the team’s management felt they needed to make their three Chase teams as strong as possible. This included these changes to the pit crews, and you can be sure that the 99, 16, and 17 are getting better engines and chassis then the other two teams now that the playoffs have started.
It may be an unfortunate situation for the 6 and 26 teams, but in the ultra-competitive world of the Chase for the Cup, just being a good team isn’t good enough to win. It becomes necessary to pull out all the stops and do whatever it takes to get your teams to the front. David Ragan and Jamie McMurray had their chances to be one of those twelve drivers, but in the end, they weren’t good enough. Now its time for RFR to come together as one big team and find a way to get either Biffle, Edwards, or Kenseth to that head table in New York come December.
NASCAR, and racing in general, is a performance based business. Nothing else matters. For these big Cup teams, this means getting into the Chase and fighting for that championship. It’s the responsibility of the crew chiefs and managers to put the best possible teams out there, and sometimes this means making changes. If the bosses don’t recognize the need for changes, or aren’t willing to make them, you can be sure they won’t be bosses for long. In RFR’s case, the moves made by Reiser and the team’s management may not be liked by some, but they have obviously paid off. Biffle has now won the first two Chase races, and Carl Edwards is the points leader heading to Kansas. If the situation were reversed, and McMurray was in and Biffle was out, Reiser wouldn’t have hesitated to make the same decisions.