When the checkered flag fell at Talladega two weeks ago, Kyle Busch saw the end of a successful combination. Following that race, Steve Addington, who was Busch's crew chief since joining Joe Gibbs Racing, was leaving his post.
The 2008 season was an unprecedented success for Busch in his first year in the No. 18 car. After 26 races, Busch gained eight victories, 16 top fives and 17 top 10s. Going into the Chase, Busch was the heavy favorite to win the title.
Then, the last 10 races were a disaster. Busch failed to finish in the first two Chase races, putting him back in points. He would not get a victory, and only garnered two top fives and four top 10s.
This year, the success has not been at the same level. Only four wins, eight top fives, and 11 top 10s were not enough to put him in the Chase.
So, it was time to make a change.
In comes Dave Rogers, who was the crew chief on Joey Logano's No. 20 GameStop Toyota in the Nationwide Series.
Every win Logano has in Nationwide, Rogers was there making the calls on the pit box. Now, he gets promoted to the big show, and to the top team at Gibbs.
His first day on the job, many would call it a success.
Busch got to the front, led the most laps, never lost the lead on pit road, and had the car to beat.
Had it not been for a gamble on fuel mileage that did not pan out, he would be in victory lane.
As successful as this duo was on its first night, did it come at a price?
The day prior, in the Nationwide Series, Logano got to experience his first race without Rogers on his pit box.
Logano admitted in the pre-race that his Smackdown vs. Raw Toyota was not good when they unloaded on Friday. In practice, they still couldn't find the handle, then ended up qualifying in the back.
On race day, despite all the adjustments the team tried, the car would not handle as he was barely cracking the top 10.
Finally, a cut left rear tire ended his day as it blew out coming down the back straightaway, sending him headlong into the outside wall.
All afternoon it seemed as if Logano was out of sync with his team as to how to make the car handle better, a position that he was not used to. When he was teamed up with Rogers, his No. 20 car was near the front every week, often beating his teammate, Busch. He currently holds the lead between the two drivers in 1-2 finishes, as he owns four wins compared to Busch's one.
But, in just one race, it seemed as if Logano was a pure rookie, just trying to get a feel for his place in the race. It appeared as though the magic Logano had in all those victories vanished on Monday when Rogers started his new duty.
It could possibly be beginner's luck that Busch had success with Rogers his first day out. Busch loves to race at Texas. Having won four consecutive races in the Nationwide Series in dominating fashion proves that.
Rogers started at a track where Busch was already a heavy favorite. Add in the chance that he could pull off a trifecta of wins proves he came in at the appropriate time. There were other factors outside his control that took away the chance at victory.
You first must consider that the final caution of the race came out on lap 206, with the green flag coming back out at lap 211. Every team that even remotely had a chance to catch Busch had to go 123 laps, including at least one pit stop.
Busch made his final pit stop at lap 269, meaning he would have to go 65 laps on a tank of fuel. Had another caution come in that last fuel run, the fuel strategy would be thrown out the window.
The fact is that every time on a pit cycle, either under green or yellow, Busch never once lost the lead on pit road. His crew would definitely had the chance to win the race on pit road, as the No. 18 was the class of the field.
There is also the thought that the car being used for that race could have been set up already by Addington to compete at Texas. He knew from earlier notes of how well he ran and what the car needed to have.
Rogers came on board at a track where Busch excelled. There was no doubt he was going to run well, even with a new crew chief in his ear.
Finally, when Logano unloaded with his Nationwide team and struggled right away, they knew they were already in the race. Their focus was getting the car right in race trim, not really worrying about qualifying.
With an impound race, they had to keep the car in race trim for qualifying, and did not fair well. Then in the race, Logano was just a sub-par car. Mid-pack all afternoon, barely in the top 10, and a blown tire due to contact ended his day.
Logano self-admitted he had an "eighth-, ninth-, or 10th-place car" and that is where he probably would have finished.
Could Logano's struggles be attributed to him not being teamed with Rogers? Possibly, but it was not the sole reason.
Can Busch have success with Rogers on his pit box? Absolutely, if you judge by only one race.
Did Busch's success at Texas come at the expense of Logano? That question cannot be answered after only one race.
If the struggles continue for Logano, and the success continues for Busch, then there will be a definitive answer.
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