NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Stewart-Haas Racing announced its crew chief lineup Wednesday for the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series, shaking up its pairings for all but one of its four teams.
SHR indicated that the Nos. 10 and 14 teams would swap crew chiefs, moving Mike Bugarewicz to work with Aric Almirora and the No. 10 Ford. Johnny Klausmeier will shift over to pair with Clint Bowyer and the Stewart-Haas No. 14.
Rookie Cole Custer will bring Mike Shiplett, his crew chief from the NASCAR Xfinity Series, up to the No. 41 Ford for his first full season in the Cup Series. The only SHR pairing that remains intact is Kevin Harvick and crew chief Rodney Childers, who have teamed up with the No. 4 entry since 2014.
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“It’s all in an effort to get better,” Bowyer said Wednesday during availabilities at the Music City Center, site of Thursday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Awards. “It’s just not normal for me, even as long as I’ve been doing this, to think it’s not just those four tires, steering wheel and a throttle pedal. To find success, the success is in the people. It’s still hard to find that chemistry, and as long as I’ve been doing it, it’s all about chemistry and finding the right people and the right match to find the success on a consistent basis, and obviously all that’s in an effort to make that better. “
Three of Stewart-Haas Racing’s teams qualified for the NASCAR Playoffs last season, with Harvick driving all the way to his third straight Championship 4 appearance. Almirola made an exit in the Round of 16 and Bowyer was ousted from contention in the Round of 12. Daniel Suarez, Custer’s predecessor in the No. 41, did not qualify for postseason eligibility.
All four SHR entries made the playoffs and won races in 2018. This season, Harvick was the only Stewart-Haas driver to scratch the win column.
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“Everybody in management talked a lot about the changes, and talked about how do we make everybody in the organization better, and quite honestly to be transparent, how to make everybody kind of step up to the level of the 4 team inside our four walls,” Almirola said. “They felt like this would be a good move to shake things up between the 14 and the 10 team and create a new dynamic and see if that sparks some better performance.”
Said Harvick: “I think the expectations are to be competitive with all four cars like we were last year. Obviously, this year I don’t think everybody met those expectations and I think that that obviously sends a message. … That’s definitely an indication that we have to make those position changes matter and get things back to where we were the year before.”
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SHR brass chose to leave the long-running grouping of Harvick with Childers untouched. That tandem has produced 26 victories, the 2014 championship and five Championship 4 appearances in their six seasons together, a level of performance that SHR hopes will translate to all four cars in 2020.
“You look at teams like Kevin and Rodney and the success they’ve had.” Bowyer said. “If you’re in meetings and things like that, it’s just, they click, you know what I mean. All the successful pairings are that way and obviously, this is an effort to find a little more of that fit factor. I’m looking forward to it. I think it’s going to be a good thing for all of us. It was the right move.”