Wednesday is a crazy day to be a crew chief.
An afternoon press conference with Hendrick Motorsports, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and former Jimmie Johnson engineer Greg Ives revealed the crew chief plans for 2015; Ives will replace Steve Letarte on the pit box as the later goes into a broadcasting role at NBC. Ives, who currently crew chiefs for JR Motorsports driver Chase Elliott in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, was the lead engineer on the No. 48 car for five of its six championship seasons. This now leaves a spot on the JRM side to be filled.
This move shows that HMS isn’t messing around; Ives was the right-hand man to Chad Knaus and is an intelligent force. With him making the calls, the No. 88 team will be set to upstage the fantastic run they’re having in 2014.
Just after this reveal, Joe Gibbs Racing announced that engineer Mike Wheeler will fill-in for Darian Grubb for the next six weeks. This comes a day after NASCAR announced harsh penalties to Grubb and the No. 11 team following the race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Post-race inspection found that the team had messed with block-off plates that are used in rear firewalls.
The violation fell within the definition of a P5-level penalty, which is defined in the rule book as: “Approved parts that fail or are improperly installed to fail in their intended use of great importance (e.g.; rear wheel well panels that fail and allow air evacuation in the trunk area; oil box cover that fails and allows air evacuation in the driver compartment; shifter boot cover that fails and allows air evacuation through the floor pan).
Not only is Grubb suspended for six races, he has been fined $125,000 and is on probation for the next six months. A loss of 75 driver and owner points was also involved.
The turn of events gives Wheeler a great opportunity, and it will be interesting to see what results follow.
For both situations, it seems like a lot of spotlight goes along with the role of being a crew chief. Happy Wednesday.