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Hendrick Motorsports Shakes Up The Order

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Tuesday, November 23 2010

Jeff Gordon and crew chief Steve Letarte will not be together next season. (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images)

Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports, announced Tuesday that his four-car team is instituting a multi-team swap of crew chiefs.

The reason, Hendrick said in a statement, is a general lack of satisfaction with performance.

Steve Letarte, who has been crew chief for Jeff Gordon for the last five seasons, will move over to the team of Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Lance McGrew, who has been on Earnhardt’s pit box since May of 2009, will be paired with Mark Martin next year.

Earnhardt has won just one Sprint Cup race since arriving at HMS in 2008. He qualified for the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship that season but finished 12th in the 12-driver field.

Alan Gustafson, who has been Martin’s crew chief the last two seasons, moves to Gordon’s team.

The only driver left unaffected is Jimmie Johnson, who, with crew chief Chad Knaus, just won his fifth straight Sprint Cup championship.

The other three drivers were winless, and only Gordon made the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, finishing ninth in the final standings.

The slump comes a year after Johnson, Martin and Gordon swept the top three spots in the final series standings.

“This will improve us as an organization, across the board,” Hendrick said in the statement. “We had a championship season, but we weren’t where we wanted and needed to be with all four teams. We’ve made the right adjustments, and I’m excited to go racing with this lineup.”

In addition, the Gordon and Martin teams will be fielded out of the same facility, now known as the 5/24 shop. Earnhardt and Johnson will be in the 48/88 shop. Previously the 24 and 48 cars were built in the same building, and the 5 and 88 were together.

Earlier on Tuesday, Johnson, on a teleconference, re-asserted his desire to continue on with Hendrick and Knaus.

“I feel like I have my best chances at Hendrick Motorsports, with Chad Knaus as my crew chief,” he said.

Hendrick scheduled a Wednesday teleconference to discuss the changes in detail.

(This story will be updated after Wednesday’s press conference)

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Tuesday, November 23 2010
4 Comments

4 Comments »

  • Terry says:

    I agree that I am not sure of the logic here. It looks like dusting instead of cleaning…dust is still there and it will just settle again..maybe some new pairing clicks…but it is same OLD BLOOD.
    As for Chevy putting the screws to Jr……..that is just INSANE.
    They have ALL the reasons in the world to make Jr. successful.
    They would have to be ACTIVE with HENDRICK to make this conspiracy work on a level of the JFK assasination.
    This is coming from ….me….a FORD guy who NEVER thought much of Dale Sr….and that is being polite.
    Jr. ….(and I like the kid)….seems as uninterested now as Kyle Petty got. He has to communicate better than…” this dump truck is turning like hammered #@%*…” He has had years to correct this and has not made the effort.I hope it works for Mark Martin. It will be harder for all GM TOYOTA & MOPAR teams…..
    because I believe the FORDS are back and that will take wins away all teams.

  • Marybeth says:

    I know that I am repeating myself, but I do not believe that Jr. will be competitive again as long as he is at HMS. I believe that Chevy has failed Jr., badly, & that if they had treated his Dad like this, he would have switched to wherever he could race competitively, including Toyota.
    And now they are changing ccs. That is only rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic! Get out NOW Junior! Do not let them put you in the position of saying look at all we are doing for him & he still isn’t producting. Get out NOW! When Chad switched pit crews in the middle of a race without asking anyone, it became very clear that he calls every shot in both garages, including dictating set-ups for every car so that it can best help the 48. Get out NOW!

    • John Sturbin says:

      How did Chevrolet fail Junior? Case you missed it, Jimmie Johnson, Junior’s teammate and new garage buddy at HMS, won his fifth consecutive Sprint Cup title Sunday in a Chevy. So, what does the car make have to do with Junior’s ongoing mediocrity?

  • SuperDaveAPK says:

    I’ve been a Martin fan since I first started watching back in the early 90s. Unfortunately, I think this move is the nail in his coffin at Hendrick. And another season like this one will leave his future options bleak. Look at Bobby Labonte, a former tier 1 driver that finished dead last of drivers that ran all 36 races. I this fate for Mark too if he tries to continue after 2011