Hall of Fame Racing names new crew chief

New Crew Chief for Hall of Fame Racing Brandon Thomas Takes Over Crew Chief Role; Philippe Lopez Remains Competition Director CORNELIUS, N.C., (Oct. 10, 2006) -- Brandon Thomas will serve as crew chief of the No. 96 DLP® HDTV Chevrolet driven...

New Crew Chief for Hall of Fame Racing
Brandon Thomas Takes Over Crew Chief Role; Philippe Lopez Remains Competition Director

CORNELIUS, N.C., (Oct. 10, 2006) -- Brandon Thomas will serve as crew chief of the No. 96 DLP® HDTV Chevrolet driven by Tony Raines beginning with the Bank of America 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Charlotte (N.C.), officials from Hall of Fame Racing announced today.

Philippe Lopez, who has served as crew chief for the first 30 races of the season, will now concentrate full-time on his duties as competition director for Hall of Fame Racing.

"We've had this plan in place since the beginning of the season," said Bill Saunders, managing partner of Hall of Fame Racing. "At some point in the near future we want to expand to two cars, move into a bigger shop and continue to put together an elite Nextel Cup team. Philippe was doing a fantastic job, not only serving as crew chief, but also as competition director. We're excited to bring Brandon in so that he can concentrate fully on being a crew chief and Philippe can concentrate solely on being competition director to further Hall of Fame Racing's growth."

Thomas comes to Hall of Fame Racing from Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) where he's been employed since 2003. JGR supplies cars, engines and technical support to Hall of Fame Racing, which is owned by Hall of Fame NFL quarterbacks Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach, as well as Saunders.

"We felt with Brandon's connection to Gibbs that he was the best candidate," Lopez said. "We've got a great relationship with Gibbs, and obviously, Brandon knows their chassis and their equipment. It was a natural fit."

"I'm excited about the opportunity," Thomas said. "The team has gotten off to a good start in their first year, and I want to work with Philippe and all the guys to continue to help the team grow and get better. It's a good group at Hall of Fame Racing, and they've got a great sponsor in DLP HDTV. I'm looking forward to working with Tony and making sure we're competitive week in and week out."

Raines and Thomas will work together for the final six races of the 2006 season before gearing up for the 2007 season.

"Brandon will be a good fit," Raines said. "He's got a lot of experience and coming from Gibbs, and he knows their equipment really well. I'm looking forward to working with him."

"We've gotten off to a good start in our first year," Staubach said. "We're excited to bring someone with Brandon's knowledge and expertise to the DLP team. We're looking forward to continued improvement under his watch."

Raines and Terry Labonte have split the driving duties on the No. 96 DLP HDTV Chevy this season. Labonte finished third in June at Sonoma (Calif.), giving the team its best finish. Raines scored a season-best 11th-place finish in August at the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The two drivers have combined for eight top-20 finishes.

"Brandon has a lot of experience," Aikman said. "We're confident that he can help our team continue to grow and improve. We're happy to have him with us."

Thomas, a native of Kingsport, Tenn., earned a degree in mechanical engineering from Virginia Tech University in 1997. His motorsports career began in January 1998 when he was hired as the assistant race engineer for Dan Gurney's All-American Racers and driver Alex Barron in the CART Series. In August 1999, Thomas moved to Penske Racing South as an engineer for Rusty Wallace, before moving to the shock department of JGR December 2001.

Thomas left Gibbs in June 2002 to serve as John Andretti's crew chief at Petty Enterprises for the remainder of the 2002 season, but returned JGR for the 2003 season as Bobby Labonte's race engineer. In 2004, Thomas served as the head of superspeeedway research and development for JGR before taking over as Labonte's crew chief for the last half of the season.

After his stint as crew chief for Labonte, Thomas has continued his role in superspeedway research and development while working on NASCAR's Car of Tomorrow, which will debut in March 2007.

Under Thomas' guidance, JGR has scored three superspeedway wins in the last 18 months. All three victories came at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway -- two at the hands of Tony Stewart (July 2005 and July 2006) and one from Denny Hamlin, who won the non-points Budweiser Shootout in February 2006.

-credit: hall of fame racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers John Andretti , Bobby Labonte , Terry Labonte , Tony Stewart , Rusty Wallace , Tony Raines , Alex Barron , Dan Gurney , Denny Hamlin
Teams Team Penske , Joe Gibbs Racing , Hall of Fame Racing