The only thing as sure as the next race is that there will be flux and change during the NASCAR season. And this year hasn’t been any different. This summer we saw crew chief shifts at some of the sport’s top tier teams – I even wrote about it here. From Earnhardt Ganassi Racing to Roush Fenway Racing changes were made in the name of improving performance, but has that actually happened so far?
Juan Pablo Montoya
Average Finish: 17.6
Average Start: 16.5
Place in Points: 17
Jim Pohlman (9 races this season)
Average Finish: 18.2
Average Start: 16.4
Place in Points: 19
Montoya and Pattie had been together since the mid-point of the 2008 season and had success together. It was apparent this season though the relationship was straining and with the EGR cars not as strong as they were last year, something had to give. And it was Pattie.
In the nine races since Pohlman took over Montoya’s performance, as evidenced by the numbers, has actually gotten worse. There’s certainly time for improvement before the end of the season, but so far this move hasn’t impressed. And with Montoya’s patience notoriously short we’ll see how long this lasts.
Martin Truex Jr.
Average Finish: 19.6
Average Start: 17.3
Place in Points: 21
Chad Johnson (15 races this season)
Average Finish: 16.2
Average Start: 17.7
Place in Points: 18
A slight improvement is perhaps better than no improvement at all. Pat Tryson, a seasoned and successful veteran of the sport, left Penske Racing at the end 2009 to join Truex at Michael Waltrip Racing. The move was highly touted but a less than successful pairing.
Chad Johnson has been atop the pit box for 15 races and in that time the two have had slight improvement in their finishes and made up three spots in the points. I suspect he’ll have ample time to prove himself in the role.
Average Finish: 16.8
Average Start: 17.9
Place in Points: 14
Matt Puccia (10 races this season)
Average Finish: 16.9
Average Start: 13
Place in Points: 14
This was another duo that had been together for a long time and found quite a bit of success. This season though was a struggle and like Montoya and Pattie chemistry was waning. Ultimately, from what we heard, Erwin walked.
Matt Puccia, a long time fixture in the Roush organization and a reasonably successful crew chief in his own right took over 10 races ago. And the move has been negligible. Biffle didn’t make the chase and they have seen no improvement in their average finish and no change in their points standing. Was Erwin the problem? You tell me.
Average Finish: 20.8
Average Start: 19
Place in Points: 25
Lucas Lambert (9 races this season)
Average Finish: 18.1
Average Start: 20.7
Place in Points: 24
Todd Berrier joined Burton at the end of the 2009 season after stints with Casey Mears and Kevin Harvick. The two looked great at the end of 09′ and had a decent year last year including a Chase appearance and six top-fives. Then came this season. After 19 races without a single top-ten RCR’s leadership had seen all it needed to see.
Lucas Lambert’s performance in the top job has looked pretty similar to the 19 races prior. One thing Lambert was able to do that Berrier wasn’t, was help Burton to a top-ten finish. This is an interesting one to watch.
Average Finish: 17.1
Average Start: 15.1
Place in Points: 16
Greg Erwin (9 races this season)
Average Finish: 16.3
Average Start: 15
Place in Points: 15
Mike Shiplett had been through a slew of drivers (and owners for that matter), during his time with RPM and its predecessor organizations. And during that time there was only fleeting success.
Erwin’s addition was interesting, but color me surprised performance hasn’t picked up much. Erwin has proven himself to be a capable crew chief, but things are apparently not quite working at RPM. We’ll see if they improve.
It’s interesting none of the moves made so far this season have had much of an impact on performance. Like all things though changes in leadership sometimes take a while to have an impact. I think the jury is still out on all of the crew chief swaps so far this season but after 9-15 races the picture is becoming clear. Stay tuned.