Kyle Petty, who drives the 45 Wells Fargo Dodge has a new crew chief, Stewart Cooper, formerly of the 38 Ford team. Billy Wilburn, Kyle's former crew chief will now head up the test team for Petty Enterprises.
Bandages keep being applied, but will the bleeding stop? Last week, Kyle Petty stepped aside for Craftsman Truck series regular Chad McCumbee to step into the 45 and try to qualify for the race at Texas. Chad wasn't any more successful at Texas at getting the 45 Dodge into the race than Kyle Petty was at Martinsville.
Changing crew chiefs during a season is always a risky task, but it would appear that Kyle Petty has little to lose at this point. So far, Kyle is on the entry list for Phoenix, and with his new crew chief, who knows? Miracles can happen, and frequently do in Nascar.
As far as I have been able to determine, Chad McCumbee will return later in the season when Kyle steps aside to perform his TNT broadcast duties. Regardless of whether he qualified or not at Texas, Chad got some very valuable time behind the wheel of a Nascar Sprint Cup car. Chad practiced and attempted to qualify the car, but as it turned out, the car didn't perform any etter for Chad than it has for Kyle.
The pressures for any Nascar team is tremendous. Not only do they have to qualify, they have to perform on the track in order to keep and attract sponsors. In a lot of cases the driver is crucial to team performance, but he or she is only one cog in the wheel. The team has to perform well, both in the shop and in the garage to prepare the car for competition. The engine tuner has to adjust the engine to it's maximum performance, riding a razor's edge between maximum horsepower and torque and destruction of the engine itself. The crew chief is a crucial cog, as he or she makes all the important decisions as to how the car itself is set up. Too much wedge or too little? Harder springs or softer? Tire pressures.... what about tire pressures? Tire pressure in today's Nascar can make the difference between a winning car and a losing car. It can also make the difference between a car that makes the race and a car that goes home. A car that goes home means a team goes home. Money is lost, and the pressure just builds more for the next race.
While I'm not a huge fan of the new Cup car, it does provide some interesting challenges for the drivers and the teams. Jeff Gordon had an absolutely awful day at Texas, with a very ill handling car causing an early crash. Jeff basically said after the race that he's never driven anything quite that bad, and this is the guy who's won 4 Cup championships and 81 Cup races. That's saying something. When Jeff Gordon has this many problems during a race weekend, what do smaller teams experience? In some cases, such as Kyle Petty's team, they experience grief.
A lot of other small teams know the feeling. John Carter's 08 team has not made a race yet this year. How much longer the small teams can stay competitive is a question I'm not willing to speculate upon, because the stakes for all of these people are just too high to contemplate.
Nascar's new car was supposed to make racing more equal, and in a way it has. The new car has basically made racing more equal among the big teams, but has left many of the smaller teams out in the cold. I don't see this as a solution, but just an added problem to teams like Petty.