The 2015 Sprint Cup season was already going to be a season of change for Joe Gibbs Racing as the organization will be expanding from three teams to four. JGR for years has said that it would not add a fourth team to go along with drivers Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth until everything was in place within the organization to support a fourth driver.
It has never been about getting the right driver to expand to four teams for JGR, it has always been more about having the people and resources in place to make sure that when a fourth driver was added that he would have everything he needed to be successful.
The announcement earlier in the year that Carl Edwards would be joining JGR for the 2015 season has put into motion several changes in personnel that were recently announced to prepare the organization for the upcoming season.
While JGR did put all three drivers in the Chase this year, the performance was not there on a consistent basis to be competitive as the trio combined to win just two races. Whenever the results are not there in the sport, one of the first places that an owner looks at is the driver/crew chief combination.
JGR not only has an all-star driver lineup, it also has some of the best crew chiefs in the sport and that is why it was recently announced that all of the crew chiefs would be returning for next season. The combination of Kenseth and crew chief Jason Ratcliffe will be the only team that will remain intact for next season, and that duo won seven races in 2013 but failed to capture a checkered flag this season.
Hamlin will be parting ways with his crew chief Darian Grubb after two seasons, but even though they only won one race this season, they were able to advance through the Chase as one of the final four teams with a chance to run for the title at the season-ending race at Homestead. Hamlin will now have Busch’s crew chief Dave Rodgers on top of his box in the pits calling the shots when the season gets underway at Daytona in February.
Grubb will be leaving Hamlin and one of the best pit crews in the business to become crew chief for Edwards’s newly created team. Grubb has a great track record as a crew chief as he nearly won a title with Hamlin and won the Sprint Cup championship when he was Tony Stewart’s crew chief at Stewart-Haas Racing. While Grubb does have the results that you are looking in a crew chief, there may be some concerns about why he was replaced after posting successful years with both Stewart and Hamlin.
Maybe the toughest crew chief job in all of the Sprint Cup Series is that of the crew chief that is asked to guide the fortunes of Kyle Busch. Busch and Rogers made as many headlines this year for their well-publicized blow-ups as they did for their finishes. Like Grubb and Hamlin, the Busch/Rogers combination won races in their time together but unlike Grub/ Hamlin, they never were able to be real contenders once the Chase got underway.
Longtime JGR Nationwide crew chief Adam Stevens will be moving up to the Cup level to take over the same position with Busch. Stevens has been highly successful in the Nationwide Series with Gibbs’s #54 team with Busch as well as other JGR drivers.
Moving up to the Cup level is something Stevens has earned in his time with JGR, but with the promotion comes the tough task of controlling Busch’s often-volatile behavior on race day. It would be a tough task on any new crew chief, but Gibbs is banking on the success that the two have had in the past to form the chemistry that could turn this team into a serious title contender next season.