The garage area is going to be a bit confusing for the first few races of the year in 2003. With so many crew chiefs moving about throughout the course of this past season, it's going to take a few races to remember who is catering to which car in...
The garage area is going to be a bit confusing for the first few races of the year in 2003. With so many crew chiefs moving about throughout the course of this past season, it's going to take a few races to remember who is catering to which car in any given stall.
The biggest announcement may have been the Joe Gibbs Racing announcement that Jimmy Makar will step down as crew chief and take over the role as team manager in 2003. Makar held crew chief duties on the #18 for 11 years and coached Bobby Labonte to the 2000 Championship.
With that, Gibbs went after the man known as "Fatback," Michael McSwain, from Robert Yates Racing. McSwain was set to help Elliott Sadler settle into his new ride in 2003, but after a season full of squabbles in the 28 stables, McSwain clearly wanted relief.
Another move came when Tommy Baldwin decided to leave Bill Davis Racing and his crew chief duties on Ward Burton's 22 Dodge. With Baldwin's departure, the door was left wide open for Frank Stoddard to step in. Stoddard had previously left Roush Racing and his job as crew chief on Ward's brother, Jeff's #99 Ford.
Baldwin's most notable win with the 22 team came in the season opener Daytona 500, the most prestigious win of them all. The waiting game was on and maybe Baldwin did just that--wait too long. He ended up with the Ultra Motorsports 7 team. A team which saw three separate crew chiefs (Kevin Cram, Buddy Barnes and Tony Furr) during the course of the season, and with only three races remaining, a driver change. No driver announcement has yet been made for the '03 season.
Although JGR may have grabbed the biggest announcement by revealing Makar's 11-year stint as the head wrench turner was kaput, the most disappointing move may have came from the Busch Series ranks. Shortly after a season ending win at Homestead, Robert "Bootie" Barker announced he would be leaving Bill Davis Racing and driver Scott Wimmer to be crew chief on Dave Blaney's # 77 Jasper Motorsports entry in Winston Cup.
It was evident throughout the course of the season the Barker/Wimmer duo was nearly unstoppable. During the final stretch their teamwork won four of the final eight races. Barker and Wimmer struggled and prevailed all season long, minus a sponsor. At mid-point Bill Davis informed the team they might have to close shop due to lack of finances. That's when the duo kicked it into high gear, scored 11 top-fives, 17 top-10's and finished third in the final standings.
Barker however, is far from new to the Winston Cup division. In the past, he's worked with Ward Burton during his stint with BDR and he also worked for a short time on four-time champion Jeff Gordon's 24 team. Good news; he also has experience working with Blaney which came during Blaney's two year stint in Busch prior to moving to Cup in 2000.
Wimmer and Blaney have a lot in common, both are quiet, yet driven and it would take a lot of searching to find anyone willing to put down either driver. Barker and Blaney may be able to pull out a James Ince-Johnny Benson type chemistry and please with a career first Winston Cup win.
Don't get too comfortable with the crew chief line-up, nothing is etched in stone. For one, Ganassi Racing has yet to make an official announcement as to who will crew chief rookie Jamie McMurray's entry.
Some other crew chief changes throughout the course of the season:
-October/November: It was announced team engineer Roy McCauley is to take over the crew chief job on Ricky Craven's Pontiac for 2003. Mike Beam is to move into either a manager role or possibly to RCR's #30 car, driven by Jeff Green.
-September:Tony Gibson left his car chief duties at Hendrick Motorsports to become Steve Park's crew chief on his #1 Chevy. Gibson filled the void left by Paul Andrew who took over Stoddard's position at Roush.
-September: Peter Sospenzo took over duties on the 25 Chevrolet with Joe Nemechek. Sospenzo replaced Brian Pattie.
-June: RCR decided to swap crew chiefs on the 29 and 31 crews, handing Kevin Hamlin to Robby Gordon's 31 team while Gil Martin was sent to work on Kevin Harvick's 29.