Carl Edwards entered the 2012 season as one of the favorites to not only drive his way into the Chase, but to also win the title. After all, the 2011 season ended with Edwards tied in the points with Tony Stewart after the final race, but he ended up finishing second after Stewart won the tiebreaker by posting the most wins on the season.
This past season, Edwards could never come close to regaining the momentum that his Roush-Fenway Racing team had in 2011. He went winless on the season and failed to make the Chase after posting the best numbers of his career the previous season. It was the third time that he had gone winless after a big year.
Edwards’s owner Jack Roush has been known to shake things up within his organization when one of his teams doesn’t perform up to its expectations, so starting next month at Daytona Edwards will have a new crew chief calling the shots. Roush didn’t have to look far, as longtime Roush- Fenway crew chief Jimmy Fennig will just change teams within the organization.
Fennig comes to Edwards after teaming with Matt Kenseth for six wins over the last two seasons. He also brings the experience of being a Sprint Cup champion, having teamed up with Kurt Busch to win the title in 2004. This has the potential to be one of the better moves going into the new season. Both Edwards and Fennig have already shown that they both have the talent to not only put this team back into the Chase, but to also compete for the title.
Edwards will not be the only Cup driver looking to turn things around this season by changing crew chiefs. Ryan Newman actually got a head start on Edwards when his Stewart-Haas Racing team changed crew chiefs with four races remaining in the 2012 season.
Matt Borland took over for Tony Gibson during the last month of the season and ended with two top-five finishes in the final two races of the season. Newman hopes those finishes are the beginning of recapturing some of the success that the two experienced earlier in their careers when the two teamed up at Penske Racing.
Newman has won three races in his four seasons at SHR including only one this past season while failing to make the Chase. Between 2002 and 2005 when Newman and Borland where paired together at Penske, the two won 12 races including eight in 2003. Besides their past success together, the biggest plus going into the new season for this pairing is that there will be no growing pains while the two get on the same page. Hopefully they can recapture some of that chemistry that brought them their earlier successes.
Sometimes the best change for a driver from one season to the next doesn’t involve a new crew chief. Much has been written both good and bad about Kurt Busch but in spite of all of his well-documented troubles in the sport, he can drive a racecar and next season he takes his services to Front Row Motorsports. He actually left Phoenix Racing late in the year and posted top-10 finishes in the final races of the season while driving for Front Row Motorsports.
Busch replaced Ragan Smith who, after being let go, was picked up by JR Motorsports to fill in for one of its nationwide teams. Smith took advantage of his opportunities as his showing at JRM was good enough for Hendrick Motorsports to put him in the vacated Sprint Cup seat of Dale Earnhardt Jr. when he was sitting out two races with a concussion. He also posted a victory in the season-ending Nationwide race at Homestead-Miami.
Smith took what could have been a fatal blow to his career and turned it into positive as he was rewarded by JRM for his efforts with a full-time ride in the Nationwide Series this season. This will be his first real opportunity to run for a series title since he entered NASCAR as he is now with a team that has the resources that it takes to be competitive at each stop on the schedule. He will also make a few starts in the Sprint Cup Series driving for Phoenix Racing.