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So how's this for some big pre-Thanksgiving news? Rick Hendrick is blowing up every element of his organization, top to bottom. (Correction: almost every element. You can probably guess what won't be changing.)
In response to near-constant criticism of at least two of his crew chiefs, Hendrick has pulled off a three-man version of musical chairs. The new crew chiefs are as follows:
Unsurprisingly, Chad Knaus will be staying with Jimmie Johnson.
The early money would place Gordon as the winner in this scenario, as Gustafson has long been seen as the up-and-comer among the Hendrick crew chiefs. Letarte has drawn criticism for his late-race strategy, and McGrew has taken heat for not being able to help Earnhardt adjust to changing race conditions.
"This will improve us as an organization, across the board," Hendrick said in a statement. "We had a championship season (in 2010), 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."
Even so, that's not the only change -- indeed, perhaps not even the major one. Starting in 2011, Hendrick's teams will operate out of different shops. The 88 team will now be housed with the 48, and the 24 and the 5 will partner up. That's potentially huge, as Hendrick is clearly hoping the 48's championship mojo will seep over to Earnhardt.
Some more questions:
-What does this say about McGrew's long-term prospects, since Kenny Francis is scheduled to accompany Kasey Kahne to Hendrick in 2012?
-Is the shop switch an outgrowth of the swap of crew teams between the 24 and the 48 late in the season?
-Who benefits the most from this big scramble?
Much to discuss. Have at it, friends.
- Rick Hendrick
- Steve Letarte