Stewart-Haas Racing has announced that Chase for the Sprint Cup contender Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart will swap their respective pit crews, effective immediately.
SHR vice president of competition Greg Zipadelli said in a team release that the change was made “in the best interests of the entire organization.”
Zipadelli added: “Our primary goal is to win races and championships, and this pit crew swap provides championship experience to the No. 4 team [Harvick] and continued race-winning experience to the No. 14 team [Stewart].”
Harvick’s now-previous crew has been criticized for multiple mistakes during the 2014 regular season. In last week’s regular season finale at Richmond International Raceway, they were twice unable to keep their man up front during early yellow-flag pit stops.
Brad Keselowski took the lead in the pits on a debris caution at Lap 125, and he never gave up the point again en route to his fourth win of 2014 that also earned him the No. 1 seed in the Chase.
Harvick settled for a fifth-place finish, and afterwards, he was blunt about what it would take to bring home the Cup.
“We’ve gone 26 weeks and haven’t fixed pit road,” he said. “We have to fix pit road in order to win a championship.”
Now, Harvick will have Stewart’s tire changers, tire carriers and jackman from the latter’s 2011 title-winning team: Ira Jo Hussey (front tire changer), Todd Drakulich (front tire carrier), Daniel Smith (rear tire changer), Mike Morneau (rear tire carrier), and Mike Casto (jackman).
The former No. 4 crew – Bryan Jacobsen (front tire changer), Brett Morrell (front tire carrier), Jonathan Sherman (rear tire changer), Josh Sobecki (rear tire carrier), and Getty Cavitt Jr. (jackman) – now joins Stewart’s No. 14 side.
Considering that Harvick’s often-blazing speed this year has been blunted repeatedly by pit woes, SHR’s decision is one that should give him some more peace of mind going into Sunday’s Chase opener at Chicagoland.
Harvick can no longer afford to have races squandered, especially with wins now serving as a ticket to the next Chase round. With these championship-winning crew members now in the 4 camp, he may finally return to being “The Closer” – and at just the right time.