Monday, November 28, 2011

Jeff Burton gets new crew chief

    Richard Childress Racing has named Drew Blickensderfer as the crew chief for the No. 31 Caterpillar/Wheaties Racing team with driver Jeff Burton for the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.

   Luke Lambert, interim crew chief during the latter part of the 2011 season for the No. 31 team, will assume a yet-to-be announced new position at RCR.

   Blickensderfer begins his RCR career after nearly a decade with Roush Fenway Racing. He spent the 2011 Cup season leading the No. 6 team and has been a crew chief, in the Cup and Nationwide Series, since 2007.

   "I'm excited about the move to RCR and the opportunity to help lead Jeff Burton and the Cat/Wheaties Racing team back into Chase contention," said Blickensderfer. "I was around Jeff briefly at RFR and always admired and liked him. He's a very talented driver and I look forward to working him and the rest of the No. 31 team in 2012."

   Burton qualified for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup from 2006-2008 and 2010. He finished 20th in the final 2011 point standings.

   "Drew is a strong leader and will be a great complement to the Caterpillar/Wheaties Racing team," said Childress. "He's won some big races, including the 2009 Daytona 500, his first race as a Sprint Cup Series crew chief. There's every reason to believe the combination of Jeff and Drew will be a successful one."

He knew Darian Grubb when ....

   As the talk continues about where champion crew chief Darian Grubb will land, following are some comments on Grubb’s career growth from Jerry Freeze, general manager of Front Row Motorsports. Freeze hired Grubb at Petty Enterprises for his first racing job.

   “We hired Darian at Petty Enterprises for a shop-based job in our engineering department in the early 2000s, I think it was. He was working for a trucking company, I believe, but he was looking to get into racing. He was a Virginia Tech graduate with a mechanical engineering degree, but he had a lot of local short-track racing experience. So he was really what you look for in an engineering candidate. And he just hit the ground running. He didn’t stay in the position that we hired him into for very long. We knew pretty quick, within four or six months, that he was pretty special," Freeze said.

   “We started taking him to a few tests. He was putting data systems on the car, and he gave the crew chiefs a lot of good information. He was really wise with the tools we had, but he also understood the practical side because he had that racing experience. He became part of the group there with the crew chief and the car chief that made the decisions on the 43 car, really taking on a leadership role. You knew from the start that this guy was going to be a crew chief some day.

   “At the end of the 2003 season, we talked about making him the crew chief on Kyle Petty’s car. He had all the knowledge and the aptitude, even if he didn’t have the experience. But we really believed in him. But at that same time, he’d been talking to Hendrick when they were starting up the 48 car. And he wound up going over to be the engineer for Chad Knaus.”