CONCORD, N.C. (Dec. 30, 1999) Melling Racing is banking on similar backgrounds paying big dividends in the NASCAR 2000 season. Team owner Mark Melling announced Thursday the hiring of Jerry Pitts Jr. as crew chief for the No. 9 Kodiak Fords driven by Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate Stacy Compton.
Pitts, a veteran mechanic who has also served as crew chief for a number of drivers over the last two seasons when he primarily worked with the No. 13 Elliott-Marino Motorsports entry and with Bill Elliott's No. 94 McDonald's Fords, will be responsible for chassis setups and race day pit strategy.
"My focus is strictly on these cars," Pitts said. "A successful crew chief has good people supporting him. He needs to be turning wrenches instead of pushing papers around behind a desk, and Mark has put top quality people in place in the shop and in the office to allow me to spend time working on the cars."
Pitts also said he believes he can help Compton, who has made less than 10 career NASCAR Winston Cup Series starts, make the transition from the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series to NASCAR's premier series.
"Stacy came up racing Late Model Stock Cars, and I came up in Late Models as well," Pitts said, "so I understand where he is coming from as a driver. I also know the challenges rookie drivers face in this series."
"I'm excited," Compton said. "Jerry impressed me with his knowledge, and I believe his experience will really benefit the team. He's a tremendous addition to the team we're building. Jerry, our engineer Skip Pope and our General Manager Jeff Buice provide the knowledge, experience, ability and desire we need to put the Kodiak car up front."
Placing Pitts in the crew chief position is another step in an ongoing expansion effort the Melling team began last season.
"Our team had to grow in order to move to the next level," Buice said. "We built a new shop, added a chassis building operation and tested a few drivers last season. Since Atlanta, we've hired an engineer and five other fabricators and mechanics.
"With Ernie Elliott building our engines and a great sponsor in Conwood, we believe our team is now headed in the right direction."
The team previously announced a strategic alliance to exchange information with Elliott Racing's No. 94 team, which will supply engines to Melling's operation in the NASCAR 2000 season.
In addition to working with Elliott in 1999, Pitts also worked at Cale Yarborough Motorsports and SBIII Motorsports. Prior to joining Elliott-Marino he worked at Bahari' Racing for three years.