Stewart’s pit crew now with Harvick
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Stewart-Haas Racing gave Kevin Harvick the crew from Tony Stewart’s 2011 championship on Tuesday in a move to strengthen Harvick’s title chances in his first year with the team.
Harvick has been critical of the No. 4 team’s pit stops this season and said after Saturday night’s regular-season finale that it had to be addressed for him to have a shot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
With Stewart, the co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing, not eligible for the Chase, the organization moved the No. 14 crew to Harvick.
“We made this change in the best interests of the entire organization,” vice president of competition Greg Zipadelli said. “Our primary goal is to win races and championships, and this pit crew swap provides championship experience to the No. 4 team and continued race-winning experience to the No. 14 team.”
The team did not make a change to the crew of Kurt Busch, who also made the Chase for SHR.
Harvick has had one of the strongest cars all season but has just two wins to show for his career-best 1,186 laps led. Defending NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson said last week that Harvick should have “north of eight wins” this year, and Harvick has been vocal about the track position he loses each week on pit road.
Harvick joined SHR this season as a new fourth team, and crew chief Rodney Childers was also new to the organization and assembled the crew. Harvick’s new crew will consist of tire changers Ira Jo Hussey and Daniel Smith, tire carriers Todd Darkulich and Mike Morneau and jackman Mike Casto.
Childers said swapping crews was a decision made “as a company because we felt it was the safest move going into the Chase.” Harvick opens the Chase on Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway tied for sixth in the standings.
Stewart will get the crew Childers assembled for Harvick: tire changers Bryan Jacobsen and Jonathan Sherman, tire carriers Brett Morrell and Josh Sobecki and jackman Getty Caffitt Jr.
Childers defended the crew he’d used all season, saying they’d performed well, particularly over the last month. He acknowledged consistency has been an issue, particularly as the stakes have grown.
Still, for a first-year pit crew, Childers thought his group had exceeded expectations.
“We’ve really fought hard all year to get things better and better, our guys have done everything we’ve asked of them,” Childers said. “They really haven’t had bad stops, but things have happened here and there and it’s sort of snowballed and the finger gets pointed at them.”
Childers said the original No. 4 crew was disappointed with the decision to swap, but picked themselves up Tuesday and are rooting for Harvick to win the championship. They also can assist Stewart, who is already looking to 2015 but trying to avoid his first winless season of his Cup career.
Zipadelli acknowledged last weekend at Richmond that getting Stewart a win this year is a priority for the organization, and Childers said that is motivation for the crew.
“They don’t need to take this as a slap on the hands, they need to go prove a point,” Childers said. “It’s still about learning each other and gaining on stops. They can go win with Tony Stewart, and this time next year we may be talking about how they are the best guys around.”
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