There is no question that in order to have success in racing, a team needs to have both a great driver and a great crew chief. We are witnessing one such pair right now with Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus. Apart, they are both good enough that they would probably still have success, but together they are seemingly unstoppable. There is no question that the really great drivers are able to do more with less, and there are instances of great crew chiefs making okay drivers look great. But for a team to be considered elite, they need to have both. So my question to you is, what is harder to find, a great driver or a great crew chief?
The success of NASCAR over the last few decades has ensured that there is no shortage of talent coming up on America’s race tracks. Kids are getting into racing at younger ages, and parents are leveraging their own assets to help fund their kids’ dreams. The days of drivers making it to the big leagues on talent alone are probably over, which makes finding the cream of the crop very difficult. Now, unless a driver is bringing funding to the table, most owners won’t even bother.
Finding really great crew chiefs is no simple task either. In today’s NASCAR, crew chiefs aren’t head mechanics anymore. They need to know everything there is about the race car, be able to effectively strategize for every possible outcome of a race, and be somebody who others will follow. Crew chiefs also need to serve as a cheerleader for their driver and make effective personnel decisions. In order to find the best guy for the job, owners will search high and low both inside and outside of their own organizations. He may come from the engineering department with a great resume, or he could be the young kid sweeping the floors. We’ve literally seen it all.
So knowing what we know about both drivers and crew chiefs, which is more difficult to find? That great steering wheel holder, or the guy he yells at on the radio?