Luke Lambert, Ryan Newman’s crew chief, named ‘Problem Solver of the Year’; earns $100k prize

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Luke Lambert solved all kinds of problems during the 2014 season.

It was his uncanny solutions that helped lead driver Ryan Newman to a runner-up finish in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

That’s why it’s not surprising Lambert has been named Federal-Mogul Motorparts’ “Problem Solver of the Year.”

“Luke and Ryan turned a lot of heads as they started to climb the Chase standings with a string of outstanding performances at Pocono, Dover, Kansas and Talladega,” said Michael Proud, director of marketing, North America, Federal-Mogul Motorparts. “In each of those races, Luke and the RCR crew made critical adjustments that helped maximize the performance of their MOOG-equipped steering and suspension.

“That level of problem solving excellence is what our customers expect from MOOG parts, and it’s a skill we celebrate each week through this innovative awards platform.”

In addition to the winner’s trophy, Lambert, 31, also will receive a check for a cool $100,000 for earning the award. The trophy and check will be presented to Lambert during the Myers Brothers Award ceremony Dec. 4 in Las Vegas.

Lambert is in his second full season as a Sprint Cup crew chief, having led Jeff Burton’s final season with Richard Childress Racing in 2013, and then transitioned to be Newman’s crew chief in the latter’s first season with RCR.

Lambert earned the weekly “Problem Solver of the Race” award four times during this past season, which counted heavily towards earning the year-long title. A total of 18 crew chiefs won the weekly award in 2014.

Four crew chiefs tied for second place in the Problem Solver season standings: Jimmy Fennig (crew chief for Carl Edwards), Chris Heroy (Kyle Larson), Chad Knaus (Jimmie Johnson) and Steve Letarte (Dale Earnhardt Jr.).

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Kyle Busch interests McLaren for Indy 500, but team is leaning toward experience

McLaren Indy Kyle Busch
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With Arrow McLaren SP heavily weighing a fourth car for the Indy 500 next year, Kyle Busch is a candidate but not at the top of the IndyCar team’s list.

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown addressed the possibility Wednesday morning during a video news conference with Gavin Ward, the team’s newly named racing director.

“I have not personally spoken with Kyle Busch, but you can read into that that someone else in our organization has,” Brown said. “We want to make sure if we run a fourth car, we’re in the mindset that we want someone that is experienced around the 500. It’s such an important race, and from a going for the championship point of view, we’ve got three drivers that we want to have finish as strong as possible, so if we ran a fourth car, we’d want to be additive, not only for the fourth car itself, but to the three cars and so bringing in someone who’s not done it before potentially doesn’t add that value from an experience point of view.”

Busch will race the No. 8 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing next season in NASCAR under a new deal that will allow the two-time Cup Series champion to make his Indy 500 debut. Busch, who had a previous deal to run the Indy 500 nixed by Joe Gibbs Racing, openly courted Chevy IndyCar teams to contact him during his introductory news conference with RCR last month.

After Team Penske (which has given no indications of a fourth car at Indy alongside champion Will Power, Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin), McLaren is the second-best Chevy organization, and it’s fielded an extra Indy 500 car the past two years for Juan Pablo Montoya. The Associated Press reported last month that McLaren was in “serious conversation” about running Busch at Indy with Menards sponsorship.

But with its restructured management, the team is in the midst of significant expansion for 2023. AMSP is adding a third full-time car for 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi to team with Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist, and a massive new shop also is being built in the Indianapolis area.

“(It’s) not because of him but purely because of experience,” Brown said of Busch. “He’s an awesome talent and would be huge, huge news for the speedway. But yeah, I think everyone is under consideration if we decide to do it, but experience is right at the top of the list as far as what’s going to be the most important to us.”

And it seems likely there will be a veteran joining Rossi, O’Ward and Rosenqvist at the Brickyard.

“A fourth car at the 500 is very much under consideration,” Brown said. “I wouldn’t even want to get ahead of ourselves, but we wouldn’t be ruling out a fourth car in the future on a full-time basis. That definitely wouldn’t be for ’23. But as we expand the team and get into larger facilities and things of that nature, it’s something that Gavin and I have spoken about.

“I think we would be in a position to run a fourth car at the 500 this upcoming year. If we do decide to do that, we’ll make that decision soon for maximum preparation, and I would say we’re open minded to a fourth car in ’24 and beyond and probably will make that decision middle of next year in time to be prepared if we did decide to do that.”

Brown also addressed the future of Alex Palou, who will be racing for Chip Ganassi Racing next season after also signing a deal with McLaren. Though Brown declined to get into specifics about whether Palou had signed a new deal, he confirmed Palou will continue to test “our Formula One car from time to time.

“Everyone has reached an amicable solution,” Brown said. “We’ve now had Alex in our Formula One car as we have Pato. That will continue in the future, which we’re quite excited about. At this point we’re laser-focused on 2023 and glad to have the noise behind us and now just want to put our head down and get on with the job with the three drivers we have.”