Changes start early in NASCAR’s offseason

jutter@charlotteobserver.comNovember 19, 2013 

Several Sprint Cup Series teams have wasted no time in making crew chief changes in preparation for the 2014 NASCAR season.

Within 48 hours of Jimmie Johnson clinching his sixth series championship, four new crew chiefs have been announced for Cup series drivers.

Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing was first, officially naming Keith Rodden, a race team engineer at Hendrick Motorsports, as Jamie McMurray’s new chief. The move was first reported by The Observer on Nov. 5.

Several more came Tuesday.

Stewart-Haas Racing announced a vast restructuring of its competition department, which included naming Chad Johnston as the new crew chief for three-time Cup champion Tony Stewart.

Johnston, who served as driver Martin Truex Jr.’s crew chief this season, replaces Steve Addington, who has left SHR.

In addition, Daniel Knost, most recently race team engineer on SHR’s No. 39 team, becomes crew chief for Kurt Busch, who is joining SHR in a fourth car in 2014.

In other changes at SHR, Greg Zipadelli has been named vice president of competition, and Matt Borland is now vice president of engineering.

“Our greatest asset at Stewart-Haas Racing is our people,” said Stewart, co-owner of SHR with Gene Haas. “Obviously, there is a lot of change happening for 2014 as we grow to four teams and bring in Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch.

“With our new management structure and the crew chiefs we have in place, we’re well positioned to handle whatever challenges come our way.”

Also on Tuesday, Roush Fenway Racing announced Ricky Stenhouse Jr., this season’s Cup series rookie of the year, will be reunited with crew chief Mike Kelley next season.

Kelley served as Stenhouse’s crew chief when the driver won back-to-back Nationwide Series championships in 2011 and 2012.

Pittenger congratulates Johnson on No. 6

U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger, a Charlotte Republican, issued a congratulatory note Tuesday to Johnson, who lives in Charlotte with his wife and two daughters.

“Jimmie Johnson is a champion both on and off the track, and while his racing exploits will one day be memorialized in the NASCAR Hall of Fame, his quiet, off-the-track efforts to improve education will be his most significant, lasting legacy,” Pittenger said.

Pittenger extend an invitation to Johnson and his No. 48 team to attend a special Congressional reception in honor of their championship season.

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