Last week at Texas Motor Speedway, Jeff Gordon crashed out of the AAA Texas 500, while teammate Jimmie Johnson had a series of disastrous pit stops that likely cost him the race and possibly his fifth consecutive championship. Once Gordon was out of the race, his entire seven-man over-the-wall crew moved over to service Johnson’s car for the balance of the race. The crew swap will remain in place today at Phoenix International Raceway and next Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Team owner Hendrick said Sunday that it was not as significant a change as some believed.
“They all train together, they’re all in the same building,” Hendrick said of the two pit crews. “Everything they do, they do together, and we swap guys around at the shop, in friendly competition. It’s just one team. They’re all bonused together, they know, for either car. It doesn’t make any difference.”
Hendrick said internally, the switch had the backing of both crew chiefs — Chad Knaus for Johnson and Steve Letarte for Gordon. “That cause, Chad, Stevie and I supported. I think it was a good deal. I think the guys on the (No. 48) team had done well, but they were rattled. ... Honestly, to us, it’s not that big a deal.”
That said, Hendrick did address both teams earlier this week.
“It’s one team, with all these guys working on both cars,” Hendrick said. “So I wanted to make sure they knew I was proud of them and, ‘Hey, don’t let the pressure get to you.’ I told them the job I would least like to have is going over the wall. The second job I wouldn’t like to have is crew chief. The third job I wouldn’t want to have is the spotter.”
Tom Jensen is the Editor in Chief of SPEED.com, Senior NASCAR Editor at RACER and a contributing Editor for TruckSeries.com. You can follow him online at twitter.com/tomjensen100 and e-mail him at Jensen is the author of “Cheating: The Bad Things Good NASCAR Nextel Cup Racers Do In Pursuit of Speed,” and has appeared on numerous television and radio shows. Jensen is the past President of the National Motorsports Press Association and an NMPA Writer of the Year.