Stewart looks ahead by forming third pit crew

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Stewart-Haas Racing is expanding its pit crew program in an effort to put the best teams forward in 2010 and set the foundation for a third team in the future.

Director of Competition Bobby Hutchens said he and crew chiefs Darian Grubb and Tony Gibson worked on a plan to build a third pit crew, which could be used for back-ups in case of emergency.

Hutchens accepted the responsibility for falling short with the development of the crews for the organization's first year. When situations occurred in the course of a race season, SHR did not have Nationwide Series, Camping World Truck Series or ARCA teams to pull talent for replacement crewmen.

"We went downhill with that a little bit toward the end of the season with our pit crews because we didn't have a development team," Hutchens said. "Unfortunately, that's my fault. I didn't get the right guys in there to get the job done at the right time but we worked hard in the offseason to correct that."

The third crew, which began practicing last week, will be on loan to the No. 71 TRG Racing team and driver Bobby Labonte.

Hutchens says the biggest goal this season is not to become "complacent" and "keeping the attitudes moving in the right direction. Certainly, by adding depth and development to the pit crew, Stewart Haas Racing is tackling one deficiency head on.

Changes to SHR teams

Crew chief Tony Gibson began reshaping Ryan Newman's pit crew last season.

Gibson says the team "worked as hard as we could. It just wasn't good enough."

Ryan Pepe will move into rear tire changer, Jason Fowler is now the rear tire carrier and Josh Mick will carry the front tires.

"We sucked on pit road last year," Gibson said. "The changes added a huge time difference to the team."

Crew chief Darian Grubb says very little will change on Tony Stewart's team. Front end mechanic Sean Haggerty has left the team to be a teacher in New York, and Rick Pigeon is moving into the catch can position. Pigeon filled in last season when Stewart's jackman was injured.

"The goals are to perform the best we can every week and make the Chase," Grubb said. "We know we have room to improve.