With three races left in the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup season, Joe Gibbs Racing officials announced that Steve Addington would no longer work as crew chief for Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Sprint Cup Toyota Camry.
The news came as somewhat of a shock to many of Busch’s fans which left them one lingering question unanswered, “Why would JGR President J.D. Gibbs let go of Addington after he led Busch to 12 wins in the two-year span they worked together?”
After all, from the fans' point of view, it looked as if they had just begun to get into a rhythm which could have possibly put an end to Jimmie Johnson’s championship run.
After dominating the first 26 races of the 2008 season, the disappointing finishes which came during the chase was not attributed to Addington's leadership skills.
Instead the problems which arose when the chase first began were all mechanical, but the sense of urgency to try and salvage what was left of the season did not come from Addington himself.
If looks could ever be deceiving it was obvious there was something else going on within the walls of the organization, which caused JGR to put a quick end to the limelight that Addington was being catapulted into.
For those fans who chose to look beyond Busch’s masterful driving skills, it was noticeable that Addington was not in full control of his driver like so many thought he was.
Instead Addington no longer had a hold over of his star driver, and it became more apparent when the team failed to make the Chase in 2009.
The consistency, as well as the fire which carried him through the 2008 season, was all but lost, and it became apparent that now Addington had climbed on Busch’s coattail and was along for the ride.
It was during this time when all hope was lost that Dave Rogers, who was coming off his best season as the crew chief for JGR’s Nationwide No. 20 car, was brought up to replace Addington.
At the time it seemed like the right move since Rogers had already proved he knew how to win races, but the one big difference was he had never worked with the C.O.T.
Busch at the time said the team is now, “looking for some new, fresh ideas. They feel like Dave Rogers can bring those in and get us going,” Busch said.
Busch also added that, “Joe and J.D. Gibbs are always looking for opportunities to make their organization better.
They felt like this was a necessary change in order to get ready for 2010 so the No. 18 team could be capable of competing for the Chase, and of course competing for the championship at the end of the year.”
It was after their first race together at Texas in 2009; when Busch led 232 of the 334 laps, and then had to pit—like virtually everyone else in the field—in the final minutes for a splash of gas.
That stop with three laps to go while leading, cost them the race, and while his brother Kurt went on to win the race, Kyle looked for the first exit and left his new crew chief to answer questions from the media.
"We're disappointed," Rogers said. “We were a little short on fuel. I can't explain why we ran out.”
To finish out the 2009 season, Busch would only pick up one additional top 10, and carry that same luck into the 2010 season.
With ill-handling cars and bad pit calls from Rogers, Busch would have to wait until the fifth race of the 2010 season to finish within the top 10.
After leaving Bristol, the team of Busch and Rogers looked like they were headed for their first win the following week at Martinsville, when Rogers called for two tires instead of four after a late race caution flag.
At the time of the caution, Busch’s teammate Denny Hamlin was leading the race with Busch trailing right beside him in second.
With only two tires Busch never got the chance to contend for the win, when he spun while trying to rush toward the front.
If he had taken four tires like his teammate did, he possibly could have won the race.
Instead Busch would have to settle for a 22nd place finish, but worse of all how could he put his trust into his crew chief’s hands when for nine races, he has yet to deliver the same results he was accustomed to in the Nationwide series?
Unfortunately last weekend’s race in Phoenix would prove to be no better for Rogers, when he was once again left with the same dilemma of should I take two or four tires after another late race caution.
This time it was Busch who was leading the race, and then tragedy would once again strike when Rogers was given a chance to redeem himself and prove to his star driver that he could make the right pit call.
Rogers called for four tires which put his driver to restart the race in eighth position. Ryan Newman, who went from fifth to second with a two-tire stop, would end up winning the race and Busch would eventually finish in the same position he came out in.
“We watched the Nationwide race and we knew that two tires weren’t going to go and four tires would,” Rogers said after the race.
Rogers also added that, “We were scanning the 48 [car] and knew Chad and Jimmie were going to take four, and I figured if he came out with four and we came out with two, he was going to drive by us.”
How many more races does Busch have to sit back and wonder if Rogers is actually the right man for the job?
After all, this is not the Nationwide series where the races are not only longer, but the cars also race a lot different than in the second tier series.
When you look at the overall picture, just because a crew chief has huge amounts of success in the second tier series, that does not mean he can carry that over to the upper tier series where racing is a lot more difficult.
“It might be a bit of a learning curve for Dave, so that’s going to be the biggest thing, probably Dave getting ready and getting everything and all his paperwork in order for this new car,” said Busch before the season got underway in February.
If the poor results continue to fall on the shoulders of Rogers because he can't get the job done, than maybe it's time that J.D. takes a closer look at the situation and takes immediate action before it is too late.
There is no sense in sugar coating the obvious, because in the long run every person who is involved with the team will eventually feel the effects and that alone can lead to another disastrous season.
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