As we have talked about before around here, the crew guy silly season can be just as crazy as the one involving drivers and sponsors. You won’t see press releases about changes, but teams vying for the top pit crew talent can be very competitive. I have absolutely no data to back this up, but it seems like there has been an inordinate amount of changes to pit crews coming into 2012 versus previous years. Between guys retiring, teams shutting down, and contracts ending, pit road will look very different this season.
Outside of the usual turnover based on contracts and performance based moves, the turmoil at the team level was certainly a driving factor in why we are seeing so much change. Roush Fenway lost a car, as did Richard Childress Racing, and Red Bull went away completely. Those moves pushed a lot of guys into the market, and the team added at Michael Waltrip Racing only added six new jobs.
From what I can gather, it appears as though only a handful of pit crews remain unchanged from the end of 2011. If my math is correct, it looks like better than 80% of the teams on pit road have made a change to at least one position on their crews for 2012. That is a tremendous amount of turnover.
Just to give you a few examples of what I’m talking about, I’ll point out changes to both Jeff Gordon’s 24 crew and Greg Biffle’s 16 team. For 2012, the 24 crew will look very different from last season, with new changers at both ends of the car and a new carrier. And for Biffle, his Fords will be pitted by an entirely new group this season. The majority of the crew who serviced David Ragan’s 6 car last season have slid over and will now pit for Biffle.
Chemistry is a big deal for any team, and as the season begins, it will be interesting to see how all these changes pan out. Don’t be surprised if it takes a few weeks for your favorite driver’s crew to really gel together.