Sometimes the puzzle pieces fit where they're supposed to. Greg Zipadelli, the crew chief who guided Tony Stewart to his first two Sprint Cup championships, has been given his release from Joe Gibbs Racing and will join Stewart-Haas Racing in an executive capacity.
Zipadelli's move into the currently vacant director of competition slot at SHR has been one of the garage's most pervasive rumors. Stewart had released Bobby Hutchens from that position earlier this summer and never filled the position.
Over on the JGR side, Zipadelli remained as crew chief for the Home Depot No. 20 after Stewart vacated that seat three years ago. While Zipadelli has had some success guiding Joey Logano, clearly Zipadelli has been seeking alternatives. He had been under contract to JGR through 2012, but managed to secure his release, in part because his replacement was already in-house.
Jason Ratcliff, who has considerable Nationwide-level experience for JGR, will move up to the 20's pit box. Ratcliff was Kyle Busch's crew chief when Busch won the Nationwide title in 2009 and crewed an owner's title-winning team as well in 2010.
The move continues Stewart's fantasy-football-draft style of staffing. While he won a Sprint Cup title with Darian Grubb, he and Grubb parted ways at the end of the season. Stewart brought in longtime colleague Steve Addington to handle crew chief duties next season.
The move certainly gives Stewart comfort at the higher levels of his organization. What remains to be seen is if the pieces can gel as well as the ones that took the 14 to Chase berths in its first three seasons of existence.